It is not often that I read a book that I am unable to put down. A book in which I continue to the next chapter even though I have mentally decided to switch off the light and go to sleep when I am at the end of reading the present one. However, I recently found such a work entitled, “Rise and Kill First”, written by award winning author and military historian Ronen Bergman.
A Sad Truth
As readable and exciting as are the anecdotes of the Mossad, Israel’s well-known intelligence agency, just how tragic are the long terms results of these elaborate technological plans and detailed strategies for targeted killings. It is indeed sad that the endless tactical victories of the secret agency result in no long term solutions, and frequently result in unexpected negative events.
Whilst this book is replete with multiple stories of the ingenious ways in which Israel’s enemies are targeted, I will share but two examples. Anyone in my age group will probably remember the headlines which dominated the press at the time of both the Munich Olympics Assassinations of the Israeli sportsmen in 1972, as well as the Entebbe Raid in 1977 when an Israeli plane was hijacked.
Munich Olympics 1972
Operation Wrath of God had been set in motion by Golda Meir to avenge the terror attack on the Israeli team at the Olympic Games in Munich. Ail Hasan Salameh was the chief of operations for the Palestinian terrorist group Black September and in addition one of the architects of the Munich Olympics Massacre. This tragic incident at an international event to promote sportsmanship caused considerable humiliation to Israel when 11 of their athletes lost their life. An attempted assassination of Salameh was made in Norway after the disastrous attack but had proved a Public Relations disaster when the wrong man was targeted and killed. 6 years later this arch-enemy of Israel was living in Beirut leading the life of a playboy who frequented the gym, and he again reached the top of the Mossad’s hit list.
The initial plan was to investigate his daily routine at the gym where he was befriended by a spy who had detailed knowledge of his comings and goings. However after considerable time and effort tracking him in that environment, it was decided that there was too much security at the gym, so an alternative method needed to be found.
Such a strategy was devised around a sophisticated technique of targeted shooting from close range. Salameh would be targeted whilst driving through Beirut with his entourage of cars and bodyguards. A special device was created to perform the task. It was an explosive which necessitated the pressing of a button at the exact moment the targeted car passed a significant point. A precise practice procedure was required. Rehearsing this task, necessitated acute manual dexterity. The appointed operatives could not get the timing right. However, a female administrative staff member observed the problem the men were having. “Why don’t you let me try, she asked?” She timed it perfectly several times in a row, consequently being awarded the job.
Rinah arrived in Beirut on October 1978 assuming the role of an assistant to Palestinian orphans in a refugee camp. For the two months, she worked there she managed to gain information about Salameh’s movements by posing as a painter in her flat overlooking his residence. Other members of her team arrived in January the following year, one with a British passport and the other with a Canadian one. Additional operatives managed to smuggle the explosives into Beirut by sea. The scene was set.
When Salameh finished his lunch on January 22 1979, he drove down the street from his flat, carefully observed by the Israeli team. When he passed the Volkswagen they were waiting for him. Rina pressed the button and the explosion killed the target. Success was achieved six years after the Munich devastation.
Wadie Hadad of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had planned the hi-jack of an Air-France plane travelling from Tel-Aviv in 1977. It was forced to land in Entebbe and 248 hostages were taken. The demand was to free 40 Palestinian and affiliated militants imprisoned in Israel as well as 13 prisoners in other countries in exchange for hostages.
Whilst the daring rescue mission staged by the Israelis was successful in preventing the death of the passengers of this plane, the stress and anguish caused to the Israeli’s was a good enough reason for wishing to assassinate the master planner.
The Mossad exploited its close knowledge of Hadad by managing to exchange his toothpaste for an identical tube which contained a lethal toxin. This dental cleanser had been developed by the Israeli Institute of Biological Research. Each time the targeted individual brushed his teeth, a minute amount of the toxin would enter his bloodstream and eventually build up sufficient strength to kill him.
When he developed hepatitis and abdominal spasms Hadad was admitted to hospital in Bagdad and treated with antibiotics. There was no improvement in his multiple grave symptoms. The local doctors were at a loss and Arafat gave instructions to send the patient to East Germany, who were at that time great admirers of the PLO, for treatment. He was admitted to a prestigious hospital which catered to members of the intelligentsia. His condition deteriorated further despite the best treatment available and after ten days he died. Whilst the Mossad was suspected, there was no evidence of how Hadad had suffered such an ignominious death.
Some Concluding Comments
The two anecdotes above illustrate the ingenuity of the planning of targeted assassinations. Despite the apparent success of many of these plots, the tragedy is that little has been achieved in any long term arrangement for Palestinians and Israelis to live peaceably side by side.
President Trump (4th week April 2019) has now advised that at the end of Ramadan he will announce his long-awaited plan for Peace between Israel and Palestine. The public has been warned that major concessions will have to be made by both parties in this ongoing conflict.