2 Nov 2012

Killing the PLO's architect - report

8:48 pm on 2 November 2012

Military censors in Israel have allowed the publication of a detailed account of the assassination of Abu Jihad, a senior figure in the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1998.

Israel was blamed for his assassination at the time, but did not acknowledge it, the BBC reports.

Now the country's best-selling newspaper has published an interview with the Israeli commando who killed him.

Yediot Ahronot newspaper interviewed Nahum Lev before his own death in 2000 but that account has not been made public until now.

Abu Jihad - whose real name was Khalil al-Wazir - founded the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) with Yasser Arafat and was blamed for a string of deadly attacks on Israelis.

He was shot dead on 16 April 1988 in a raid on the PLO headquarters in the Tunisian capital.

The BBC reports that no-one in the Middle East has doubted that Israel was behind the assassination.

He says Yediot Ahronot has been negotiating with Israeli's military censors for months for permission to tell the story.

The censors have now given way rather than fight the newspaper in the supreme court, he adds.

"Israel killed the number two man in the PLO, Abu Jihad, in Tunis in 1988, it can now be reported," the newspaper said.

"The intelligence part of the assassination was overseen by the Mossad [Israeli intelligence], and the operational side was carried out by Sayeret Matkal [elite commando unit]."

'Too bad about the gardener'

In his account of the operation, Nahum Lev said: "I had read every page of the file on him. Abu Jihad was connected to horrific acts against civilians. He was marked for death. I shot him with no hesitation."

Villa in Tunis where Abu Jihad was killed. 1988 Israeli commandos attacked the villa in Tunis after landing from the sea

He said the Israeli squad arrived by sea and then he and another commando dressed as a woman pretened to be a couple enjoying an evening stroll, and he shot a guard with a gun concealed in a box of chocolates.

Yediot Ahronot said masked commandos then rushed inside the villa and one of the agents ran upstairs with Mr Lev behind him.

"He shot Abu Jihad first," Mr Lev said in his account.

"It looked like he was holding a gun. Then I shot him, a long burst, careful not to hurt his wife who showed up. He died. Other combatants confirmed the kill."

A second bodyguard and a gardener who was sleeping in the basement were also killed.

Mr Lev said: "It was too bad about the gardener. But in operations like this, you have to ensure that all potential resistance is neutralised."

Israel's military has so far not commented on the article.