Lod Airport massacre

The Lod Airport massacre[1][2] was a terrorist attack that occurred on 30 May 1972. Three members of the Japanese Red Army recruited by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO),[2][3] attacked Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) near Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others.[4] Two of the attackers were killed, while a third, Kōzō Okamoto, was captured after being wounded.

Lod Airport massacre
Attack site
LocationLod Airport outside Tel Aviv, Israel
Coordinates31°59′42″N 34°53′39″E
Date30 May 1972 (1972-05-30)
12:04 – 12:28
Attack type
Shooting spree
WeaponsAssault rifles and grenades
Deaths26 (+2 attackers)
Injured79 (+1 attacker)
PerpetratorsThree members of the Japanese Red Army (guided by PFLP-EO)

The dead comprised 17 Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico, a Canadian citizen, and eight Israelis, including Professor Aharon Katzir, an internationally renowned protein biophysicist. Katzir was head of the Israeli National Academy of Sciences, a popular scientific radio show host, and a candidate in the upcoming Israeli presidential election. His brother, Ephraim Katzir, was elected President of Israel the following year.

Because airport security was focused on the possibility of a Palestinian attack, the use of Japanese attackers took the guards by surprise. The attack has often been described as a suicide mission, but it has also been asserted that it was the outcome of an unpublicized larger operation that went awry. The three perpetrators—Kōzō Okamoto, Tsuyoshi Okudaira, and Yasuyuki Yasuda—had been trained in Baalbek, Lebanon; the actual planning was handled by Wadie Haddad (a.k.a. Abu Hani), head of PFLP External Operations, with some input from Okamoto.[5] In the immediate aftermath, Der Spiegel speculated that funding had been provided by some of the $5 million ransom paid by the West German government in exchange for the hostages of hijacked Lufthansa Flight 649 in February 1972.[6]


At 10 p.m. the attackers arrived at the airport aboard an Air France flight from Rome.[7] Dressed conservatively and carrying slim violin cases, they attracted little attention. As they entered the waiting area, they opened up their violin cases and extracted Czech vz. 58 assault rifles with the butt stocks removed. They began to fire indiscriminately at airport staff and visitors, which included a group of pilgrims from Puerto Rico, and tossed grenades as they changed magazines. Yasuda was accidentally shot dead by one of the other attackers, and Okudaira moved from the airport building into the landing area, firing at passengers disembarking from an El Al aircraft before being killed by one of his own grenades, either due to accidental premature explosion or as a suicide. Okamoto was shot by security, brought to the ground by an El Al employee, and arrested as he attempted to leave the terminal.[8][9] Whether the attackers were responsible for killing all of the victims has been disputed, as some victims may have been caught in the crossfire of the attackers and airport security.[5]


Leading Israeli scientist Aharon Katzir was among the victims of the attack

A total of 26 people were killed during the attack:[10]

US citizens from Puerto Rico

  • Reverend Angel Berganzo
  • Carmelo Calderón Molina
  • Carmela Cintrón
  • Carmen E. Crespo
  • Vírgen Flores
  • Esther González
  • Blanca González de Pérez
  • Carmen Guzmán
  • Eugenia López
  • Enrique Martínez Rivera
  • Vasthy Zila Morales de Vega
  • José M. Otero Adorno
  • Antonio Pacheco
  • Juan Padilla
  • Antonio Rodríguez Morales
  • Consorcia Rodríguez
  • José A. Rodríguez

Israeli citizens

  • Yoshua Berkowitz
  • Zvi Gutman
  • Aharon Katzir[11]
  • Orania Luba
  • Aviva Oslander
  • Henia Ratner
  • Shprinza Ringel
  • Adam Tzamir

Canadian citizen


The Japanese public initially reacted with disbelief to initial reports that the perpetrators of the massacre were Japanese until a Japanese embassy official sent to the hospital confirmed that Okamoto was a Japanese national. Okamoto told the diplomat that he had nothing personal against the Israeli people, but that he had to do what he did because "It was my duty as a soldier of the revolution." Okamoto was tried by an Israeli military tribunal and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1972. During his trial, he actively undermined his own defense, and in particular protested his lawyer's requests for a psychiatric evaluation, but managed to avoid the death penalty by pleading guilty.[8] Okamoto served only 13 years of his prison sentence. He was released in 1985 with more than 1,000 other prisoners in an exchange for captured Israeli soldiers.[13] He settled in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. He was arrested in 1997 for passport forgery and visa violations, but in 2000 was granted political refugee status in Lebanon. He is still wanted by the Japanese government as of 2021.[14] Four other JRA members arrested at the same time were extradited to Japan.[15]

In response to the attack, the PFLP's spokesman, Ghassan Kanafani, was assassinated by the Mossad a few weeks later. Mossad agents planted a bomb in his car that detonated after he turned on the ignition. Kanafani's 17 year old niece was also killed.[16][17]

Various pieces of media output have claimed the primary organizer of the attack Wadie Haddad, was assassinated by Mossad although official records state he died of leukemia.[18][19]

Lod Massacre Remembrance Day

In June 2006 a legislative initiative (Senate Project (PS) 1535) by José Garriga Picó, a then senator of Puerto Rico was approved by unanimous vote of both houses of the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico, making every 30 May 'Lod Massacre Remembrance Day'. The initiative was signed into law on 2 August 2006 by Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá,[20] making 30 May 2007, the 35th anniversary of the massacre, the first official 'Lod Massacre Remembrance Day' in Puerto Rico. The purpose of Lod Massacre Remembrance Day is to commemorate those events, to remember and honor both those murdered and those who survived, and to educate the Puerto Rican public against terrorism.[21]

North Korea trial

In 2008, the eight surviving children of Carmelo Calderón Molina, who was killed in the attack, and Pablo Tirado, the son of Pablo Tirado Ayala, who was wounded, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. They sued the government of North Korea for providing material support to the PFLP-EO and the JRA and for planning the attack. The plaintiffs claimed a right to sue the North Korean government based on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. Preliminary hearings to examine evidence began on 2 December 2009, with district judge Francisco Besosa presiding. The North Korean government did not respond to the lawsuit and had no representatives present. The victims' families were represented by attorneys from the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, including its founder, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.[22]

In July 2010, the U.S. court ordered North Korea to pay US$378 million to families as compensation for the terror attack.[23]


    • "The short-term impact of the Lod Airport massacre as a precursor to Munich..." Stephen Sloan, John C. Bersia, J. B. Hill. Terrorism: The Present Threat in Context, Berg Publisher, 2006, p. 50. ISBN 1-84520-344-5.
    • "Two years later, just before the Lod Airport massacre, authorities uncovered the bodies of 14 young men and women on remote Mount Haruna, 70 miles northwest of Tokyo." "Again the Red Army", TIME, 18 August 1975.
    • "Those named by Lebanese officials as having been arrested included at least three Red Army members who have been wanted for years by Japanese authorities, most notably Kōzō Okamoto, 49, the only member of the attacking group who survived the Lod Airport massacre." "Lebanon Seizes Japanese Radicals Sought in Terror Attacks" Archived 24 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine, The New York Times, 19 February 1997.
  1. "They were responsible for the Lod Airport massacre in Israel in 1972, which was committed on behalf of the PFLP." Jeffrey D. Simon, The Terrorist Trap: America's Experience with Terrorism, Indiana University Press, p. 324. ISBN 0-253-21477-7
  2. "This Week in History". 24 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012. The assailants, members of communist group the Japanese Red Army (JRA), were enlisted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),
  3. "In what became known as the Lod Airport Massacre, three members of the terrorist group, Japanese Red Army, arrived at the airport aboard Air France Flight 132 from Rome. Once inside the airport they grabbed automatic firearms from their carry-on cases and fired at airport staff and visitors. In the end, 26 people died and 80 people were injured." CBC News, The Fifth Estate, "Fasten Your Seatbelts: Ben Gurion Airport in Israel", 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  4. Marx, W David. "Interview: Dr. Patricia Steinhoff 4". Neojaponisme. Archived from the original on 1 May 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  5. "Weißer Kreis". Der Spiegel (in German): 82–85. 5 June 1972. Archived from the original on 21 March 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  6. Schreiber, Mark (1996). Shocking Crimes of Postwar Japan. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 4-900737-34-8.
  7. Burleigh, M (2009) Blood & Rage, a cultural history of terrorism, Harper Perennial P161
  8. "Senado conmemora el 42 aniversario de la Masacre de Lod en Israel". Diario de Puerto Rico (in Spanish). 31 May 2014. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  9. On this Day, BBC
  10. "Clipped From The Ottawa Journal". The Ottawa Journal. 1 June 1972. p. 1. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  11. "The Terrorist Attack on Lod Airport: 40 Years After". Archived from the original on 27 December 2014.
  12. Press Conference The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 21 March 2000
  13. "Red Army guerrillas arrested". BBC Online. 18 March 2000. Archived from the original on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  14. Bergman, Ronen: Rise and Kill First, p. 656 (notes)
  15. Pedazhur, Ami: The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism, p. 39
  16. "Israel used chocs to poison Palestinian – Breaking News – World – Breaking News". www.smh.com.au. 8 May 2006. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
  17. http://www.swr.de/presseservice/archiv/2010/-/id=5749182/nid=5749182/did=6605332/1e8ty7a/index.html
  18. "Ley Núm. 144 de 2006 -Ley para declarar el día 30 de mayo de cada año el "Día de Recordación de la Masacre de Lod"". www.lexjuris.com. Archived from the original on 30 May 2022. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  19. Zieve, Tamara (28 May 2012). "This Week In History: The Lod Airport Massacre". The Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 31 May 2021. Retrieved 30 May 2021. Beyond legal steps, Puerto Rico immortalized the Lod Airport Massacre into the public memory. In 2006 the Puerto Rican government passed a law declaring May 30th as the annual "Remembrance Day for the Massacre of Lod." .... The reason for establishing the memorial day was that the event, which had a huge impact on Puerto Rican society, had almost disappeared from collective memory. The law stresses the importance of remembering the event to illustrate to future generations that "violence against innocents is morally abhorrent," to remember the victims and to honor the survivors.
  20. Marrero, Rosita (3 December 2009). "Juicio civil contra Corea del Norte por boricuas muertos en atentado de 1972" (in Spanish). Primera Hora. Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  21. US court fines N. Korea over 1972 Israel terror attack Archived 27 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine, YNet 07.21.10
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