Cyprus, the gateway to the three continents of Europe, Africa and Asia, is becoming increasingly concerned by the spread to the island of guerrilla actions by the Arabs and Israelis.
Cyprus, the gateway to the three continents of Europe, Africa and Asia, is becoming increasingly concerned by the spread to the island of guerrilla actions by the Arabs and Israelis. Although the island is known mainly by tourists as a shopping, sunbathing and swimming centre, its geographical position has also meant that it acts as a listening post on the Middle East.
The superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, both have large embassies there and also powerful radio complexes. So do the Arab governments and Israel.
The island has had its own share of troubles during the nineteen fifties when the EOKA guerilla organisation was active against the British and it still has internal problems because of a mixed Greek and Turkish population.
But until fairly recently, it was a safe neutral ground for both sides involved in the Middle East conflict.
Cracks in this neutrality appeared, when in January, a leader of the Al Fatah guerrilla organisation, thirty-six-years-old Palestinian Hussein Al Badir was killed by explosive charges placed under his bed in Nicosia's Olympic Hotel. Fatah blamed the Israelis and a month later an Israeli businessman was shot dead in his hotel by a young man. The Black September Arab guerrilla organisation claimed the death was in retaliation for Badir's murder.
The latest outburst of the Middle East conflict on the island was this month (April) when nien Arab guerrillas launched twin attacks on the Israeli ambassador's home and an El Al plane at Nicosia airport. (Film of this shot on April 9, 1973; Visnews Production No. 3245/73, Duration 1'01", gives further details of this incident. If longer item is required, this film can be inserted in place of shot 17 -- the damaged ambassador's flat -- in this film.)
The nine guerrillas failed to injure the ambassador and at Nicosia airport one guerrilla was shot dead and three wounded. Only one of the guerrillas escaped. In the incident two Cypriot policemen were injured and this shocked the island which was already concerned about indications that the Arabs and Israelis are trying to meddle with internal affairs in Cyprus.
A Nicosia newspaper has published pictures of automatic rifles said to have come from Israel which were seized by police from supporters of General George Grivas, the former EOKA leader who wants union with Greece. On the other hand, many supporters of President Archbishop Makarios have strong links with the Arabs.
The murdered Hussein Al Badir was a former teacher at the Melkonian Institute in Nicosia and another teacher is alleged to have recruited a Haifa bookshop owner, Dauod Osman Turki, who's now been gaoled for seventeen years by the Israelis on charges of spying for Syria.
The official Cyprus government attitude is that it has enough problems of its own and does not want the island to become a battlefield in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Archbishop Makarios has said they'll take every measure to prevent this happening.
Security has been greatly tightened, particularly at Nicosis Airport, in this effort to keep the island neutral.
SYNOPSIS: Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, is mainly known to tourists as a friendly place. To them, as they stroll around the old town shopping, it is. Most of them are unaware of the increasing fears that the island may become a battlefield in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But the peaceful pool at the Nicosia Hilton is only a short way from an American radio station which acts as a Middle East listening post.
The Soviet Union has the largest embassy staff in Cyprus.
The United States Embassy is the next largest.
The Arab countries also have impressive establishments. They foster strong Cypriot-Arab friendly societies and regard the island as neutral. So does the Israeli Embassy which also supports a Cypriot-Israeli friendship society.
But more concern is centred around home organisations like the Melkonian Institute, the leading Armenian school in the Middle East.
A Palestinian murdered at the Olympic hotel in January was a former Institute teacher. Hussein Al Badir of the Al Fatah guerrilla organisation died from a bomb under his bed.
At the Nicosia Palace Hotel an Israeli was killed in retaliation and this month the Israeli ambassador's home was blown up during a twin attack on the flat and an El Al plane at Nicosia's international airport. Since then , security on all arrivals from Arab countries and Israel has been much tighter.
Guards watch the arrivals and passengers pick up their own luggage from the tarmac. In addition to practical precautions, Archbishop Makarios has warned that Cyprus will take every measure to stop becoming embroiled in the Arab Israeli conflict. He's also strongly condemned the attacks and reiterated the island's desire to stay neutral.
What is worrying people is that the armed guards outside the building, and the strict checks inside, may still not be enough to end guerrilla activity. There's also concern that both the Arabs and Israeli's are getting involved in the internal affairs of Cyprus. And this is something that baggage checks cannot stop.