El Al Flight 253, was a Boeing 707 en route from Tel Aviv, Israel, to New York City, United States when it was attacked by two Palestinian terrorists as it was about to depart from a layover in Athens, Greece on December 26, 1968. One passenger, Israeli Leon Shirdan, 50, of Haifa, a marine engineer, fell dead in his seat as a bullet ripped through the El Al Boeing 707 jetliner. He was survived by his wife and then 15-year-old daughter. Two unidentified women were injured, one by a bullet, the other as she leaped from the jet when the door was opened. The two terrorists were 19-year-old Naheb H. Suleiman, born in Tripoli, Libya, of Palestinian parents; and 25-year-old Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, born in 1943 in Palestine. They were members of the Lebanese-based militant organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine The two Arabs dashed out of the transit lounge of Athens Airport just as the Israeli plane, parked 200 yards away, was preparing to take off. The plane had flown in earlier from Tel Aviv. Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammed fired at the plane for more than a minute with a submachine gun, killing one; while the other threw two hand grenades, creating panic aboard the plane carrying 10 crew members and 41 passengers. The two men were taken into custody by Greek authorities. Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammad, was sentenced to 17 years and 5 months behind bars. He was freed after less than 4 months after another Palestinian terrorist group hijacked a Greek airliner and demanded his release. Subsequently he successfully hid his terrorist past and emigrated to Canada. Once Canadian authorities learned of his crime, a protracted extradition process culminated in his extradition to Lebanon in 2013.
At the time of the event, the plane was damaged. Police arrested the two men and said the men confessed they were members of a Palestinian organization and had planned to destroy the jet and kill all Israeli passengers aboard. The two men had arrived on an earlier Olympic Airways flight from Cairo. 37 Of the 41 passengers boarded the flight in Tel Aviv, and four boarded in Athens.
The incident came five months after a group of self-styled Palestinian Arab commandos hijacked another El Al airliner, shortly after takeoff from Rome for Tel Aviv on July 23 and forced it to fly to Algiers. Algeria eventually released all passengers and crewmen and the plane.