'I'm not comfortable with it': West Mids Mayor to speak to police amid fury over Palestinian hijacker’s fundraiser

5 March 2024, 10:13 | Updated: 5 March 2024, 10:26

Leila Khaled, who hijacked planes, will appear via video link at a fundraiser hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Andy Street wants police to look at the event
Leila Khaled, who hijacked planes, will appear via video link at a fundraiser hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Andy Street wants police to look at the event. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Asher McShane

A row has broken out over a planned talk by a Palestinian woman who claimed that Hamas gunmen who carried out the October 7 attacks were “freedom fighters”.

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Leila Khaled, who hijacked two planes, will appear via video link at a fundraiser hosted by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

They are the same group who arranged for the “from the river to the sea” slogan to be projected onto the Houses of Parliament.

In a recent interview Khaled said “Hamas freedom fighters did not attack people there. They attacked one of the military group in that settlement. They were attacking only the army and not the people,” she said. “Neither Israel nor the West media could prove that they made massacres,” she said.

The row comes as a report was published that found that Hamas terror attackers raped women’s corpses during the October 7 attack.

The UN says a "fully-fledged investigation" is now needed to establish the scale of the violence - including multiple cases of rape during the October 7th attack.

Hamas has previously strongly rejected the allegations.

Pramilla Patten, the UN special envoy on sexual violence and women, said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed “sexualised torture” when they carried out their attack on Israel on Oct 7.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told LBC this morning he was not comfortable with the event going ahead
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told LBC this morning he was not comfortable with the event going ahead. Picture: LBC

Khaled, 79, gained notoriety in 1969 after hijacking a plane on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv. The following year she attempted to hijack a plane from Amsterdam to New York. The plane diverted to Heathrow and she was later released in a hostage exchange.

She is due to appear at a fundraiser for the West Midlands branch of the PSC in Birmingham. Tickets for the event on Friday, which includes a three-course meal, cost £25.

Read more: Hamas attackers raped women’s corpses, UN report finds

Read more: Jeremy Hunt to extend 5p fuel duty cut in Budget boost for drivers after damning poll predicts Tory wipeout

Andy Street on plane hijacker set to give talk at Palestinian Solidarity Campaign

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street told LBC this morning he was not comfortable with her speaking event going ahead: “We’ve had examples like this before where different organisations send what I would say - and I’ll use this word - I don’t know this woman ‘hate preachers’ and we’ve seen in Leicester it was last year how incendiary that can be.

In 1969 Leila hijacked a TWA plane heading to Tel Aviv, diverting it to Damascus
In 1969 Leila hijacked a TWA plane heading to Tel Aviv, diverting it to Damascus. Picture: Alamy

“I will be following up whether it is appropriate that this should occur and whether the police could stop it occurring for reasons of public order.”

Lord Walney, the government’s adviser on political violence and disruption, told The Times: “Even by their own recent standards, it is staggering that the PSC wants to give a platform to [Khaled].

“The decision to host Leila Khaled underlines the importance of all mainstream party leaders making clear their MPs and councillors should not be engaging with the PSC while they are in the grip of this militancy.”“The PSC’s hardline approach is undermining their own cause by opening the door to extremism and intimidation in communities.”

Khaled will appear alongside Huda Ammori, the co-founder of Palestine Action, which targets companies in the UK that it claims provide weapons to Israel.

A spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Just when you thought that the PSC could not stoop any lower, they welcome a … plane hijacker to inspire their activists.

“They tell the public that they are a purely peaceful organisation, but hosting Leila Khaled would seem to tell a different story. Given that it is the PSC which is mobilising the mobs marching down our streets, this latest move is extremely disturbing.”

In 1969 she hijacked a TWA plane heading to Tel Aviv, diverting it to Damascus.

After the hijacking she was reported to have undergone plastic surgery six times to conceal her identity so she could continue fighting.

In 1970 she attempted her second hijacking, of an El Al jet from Amsterdam to New York City. She tried to storm the cockpit armed with grenades.

The flight was diverted to Heathrow where Khaled was arrested and held in a London police station for 28 days. She was later freed in exchange for Western hostages.

She supports a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the withdrawal of Israel from lands it has held since 1967.

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