Palestinian terrorists in Beirut on Monday marked the 50th anniversary of a deadly bombing carried out by members of the Japanese Red Army at Israel’s Lod airport, alongside the last surviving perpetrator.
Kozo Okamoto, the only remaining member of a three-man terror cell that killed 26 people on May 30, 1972 at an airport near Tel Aviv, made a rare appearance at the ceremony. The other two assailants were killed by the security forces present at the scene.
The short event took place at a cemetery on the outskirts of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp, where Okamoto, now 74, laid a wreath at a grave in honor of his fellow JRA members and flashed a V sign.
The attack was planned by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which has commemorated it every year for half a century. The PFLP is classified as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union and Japan.
The three members of the Japanese Red Army recruited by the PFLP opened fire and threw grenades at the airport, killing eight Israelis, one Canadian and 17 American citizens from Puerto Rico, who had come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The bloodbath at what was later named Ben Gurion Airport sparked a review of global safety standards in the aviation industry.
Fusako Shigenobu, who co-founded the Japanese Red Army, was released from a Tokyo prison on Saturday after serving a 20-year sentence.
Okamoto, who was captured in the attack, was sentenced to life in prison in Israel but released in a massive prisoner swap deal known as the Jibril Accord in 1985. Okamoto has since lived under PFLP protection in Beirut.
He was imprisoned again in Lebanon in 1997, but narrowly avoided extradition to Japan and in 2000 became the first – and so far the only – person to be granted political asylum in Lebanon.
“[Okamoto] came to defend the freedom of people who had their land stolen. He believes in their rights, he believes in justice and human freedom,” a PFLP official named Abu Yusef told AFP.
An official of the Lebanese Shia terror group, Abdullah Hamoud, also attended the ceremony honoring Okamoto, who is still wanted in Japan for terrorism.
“This valiant hero suffered in enemy prisons…but today his heart beats with Palestine,” Hamoud said.