Cyprus frees British killer

IAN DAVISON, the South Shields carpenter and Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) assassin who returned to London last night after being released from prison by the Cyprus government, was one of a line of foreigners so beguiled by the Palestinian cause that they mounted murderous attacks on Israelis.

In 1985, Davison and two Palestinians associated with Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah movement shot dead three Israelis on their yacht in Larnaca harbour. The killers insisted that the Israelis - a middle-aged woman, her husband and a friend - were operatives of the Mossad intelligence agency spying on the movement of ships, above all of Palestinians travelling to the camps in Lebanon. There is no firm public evidence of this allegation.

It was not Davison's first operation with the PLO. He said he took up the Palestinian cause after watching television footage of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to drive the Palestinians out of the south of the country. In 1983, he was fighting alongside Fatah forces against the Syrians in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon.

Davison's participation in these operations was almost an anachronism. It was a dozen years earlier that European and Japanese fellow travellers had taken part in terrorist actions against Israeli targets. In May 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army, working on behalf of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, opened fire at the arrivals hall at Lod airport. They killed 26 people and wounded 76. Two of the Japanese were killed. The third, Kozo Okamoto, was captured, tried and sent to prison, where he went mad.

Germans had participated in the 1976 hijack of an airliner to Entebbe. And the Venezuelan, Carlos, held Opec ministers to ransom in Vienna in December 1975.

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