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Israel: Attack on El Al Was Terrorist Act - 2002-07-05

Israel says the attack at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport was a terror attack.

Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh said on Israel's Army Radio that Israel believes the shooting was a terrorist attack. He said extremist organizations are planning to hit Israeli targets outside Israel and that airports are preferred targets.

American authorities are withholding judgement on whether the shooting was a terrorist incident.

El Al airlines Director General Amos Shapira agreed with the government assessment. He told journalists that El Al has stepped up security worldwide in recent days but said there had been no specific threats regarding Los Angeles.

El Al airlines is considered to have the strictest and most effective security procedures of all airlines. The policies were put into effect following a string of hijackings in the 1960s and 70s.

Current El Al security procedures require passengers to check in three hours ahead of their flight and undergo intensive security screenings and physical searches. At least two plain clothes armed security agents fly on every El Al flight.

In the Los Angeles shooting, two people were killed and several others injured in the incident, which took place shortly before noon local time. The lone gunman has been identified as a 41-year-old Egyptian who has been living in the United States for the past 10 years.

Reports from the scene said the man had been standing in line when he suddenly opened fire. Two El Al security guards intervened, wrestling with the gunman and eventually shooting him dead.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres praised the guards for their quick action. He said many more people would surely have died if guards had not acted as rapidly as they did.