TEL AVIV (Nov. 23)
A member of Israel’s intelligence community has confirmed for the first time that the Mossad assassinated several Palestinian terrorists in reprisal for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games in September 1972.
The disclosure that the Israeli government had approved the assassination of 10 to 15 terrorists by the country’s foreign intelligence service was made by reserve Maj. Gen. Aharon Yariv in an interview broadcast Monday on Israel Television.
Yariv, who is currently head of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, was at the time of the Munich massacre an adviser on terrorism for then-Prime Minister Golda Meir.
According to Yariv, Meir had full knowledge of the assassinations and had approved them.
Yariv was unavailable for interviews following the broadcast. He is recovering from the effects of a stroke.
The interview, which had been conducted more than a year ago, had been delayed by military censorship, according to Israel Television.
But the producers of the interview said censorship had nothing to do with the delay.
They said the interview aired now to upstage the BBC, which is planning to broadcast a documentary called “An Eye for an Eye” about the Mossad’s activities following the Munich massacre.
According to the producers, Israeli authorities apparently preferred to broadcast the Yariv interview in advance of what may be a slanted and sensational version produced by the BBC.
In the interview, Yariv said that Meir had agreed to the assassination plans only with the greatest reluctance and had stressed that they were to be carried out at close range “to reduce the risk of any mistake and harm to family members or passers-by.”
Yariv named a dozen victims, describing how they had been identified and killed by trained Mossad operatives working throughout Europe.
CAN’T GET AWAY WITH MURDER
Meir was unhappy about ordering Mossad operations to be carried out in friendly countries, but had agreed that “Palestinian terrorists cannot be allowed to get away with the murder of Israeli civilians just because they are Jews,” Yariv said.
The targets were all senior officials of the terrorist Black September group, which had claimed responsibility for the Munich massacre.
Many were close associates and friends of Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat. The assassinations prompted many senior PLO officials to change their residences virtually every day.
Yariv admitted that the only real failure had been the killing of a Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, in July 1973, when Mossad operatives mistook him for their intended target.
The Mossad team was later picked up by the Norwegian police and its members were sentenced to prison terms for illegal activities on Norwegian territory.
“I was in shock when I learned that we had slipped up,” said Yariv.
The intended target had been Ali Hassan Salame, the most-wanted man on Mossad’s hit list, who was the head of Black September and a close associate of Arafat.
Yariv said the waiter “could have been an identical twin of the target.”
Salame was later killed in a 1982 bomb explosion in Beirut. The Mossad team that had infiltrated the Lebanese capital and carried out the assassination escaped after the incident.