Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 15

On the morning of 15 May 1974 -- the 26th anniversary of Israel's founding -- three guerillas from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) crossed into Israel from Lebanon, then shot and killed five people in Ma’alot before taking over Netiv Meir elementary school, where about a hundred teens from a nearby village had spent the night after a hiking trip.

During the negotiations that followed over the course of the afternoon, the PDFLP insisted that the Israeli government release more than two dozen political prisoners, in exchange for which the captive youths would not be killed. The militants set a deadline for 6:00 p.m. Although the government of Golda Meir indicated that it would be willing to meet the demands, it also asked for more time to continue negotiations; the request was refused. Shortly before the deadline, soldiers from the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit stormed the school and killed the three hostage-takers -- though not before 21 children died and scores were injured by gunfire and grenade shrapnel.

The next day, Israeli Defense Force planes pounded seven Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon, killing 26 and injuring well over a hundred people.

Nineteen years after the Ma'alot massacre, a two-day crisis at a Parisian nursery school ended when French police commandos shot Eric Schmitt in the head three times while he was sleeping. Schmitt, an unemplyed engineer and failed businessman, had taken 21 girls and their teacher hostage, demanding nearly $20 million in exchange for their safe release. The teacher, a young woman named Laurence Dreyfus, kept the children calm by telling them that Schmitt was "hunting wolves."