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Israel declassifies soldier’s account of killing PLO leader

(JTA) — Israel’s military censor authorized for publication the testimony of an army officer who said he killed PLO co-founder Abu Jihad in 1988.

Nahum Lev, the commander of the operation that ended in Abu Jihad’s death in Tunis, told a reporter for Yediot Achronot in an interview before his own death in 2000 that he had killed Abu Jihad, who co-founded the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

Lev died in a car accident. The censor only recently lifted a ban on publication, and the interview appeared in last Friday’s paper.

Israel never assumed responsibility for the attack on the house of Abu Jihad, whose real name was Khalil al-Wazir. 

On April 15, 1988, a day prior to the operation, commando units were ferried to the Tunisian shore, Lev told Yediot Achronot.

Twenty-six members of the force were divided into groups. Lev was in the first group of eight that was designated to break into Abu Jihad’s house. The rest were to serve as reinforcements. They stopped a third of a mile from his home.

At the house, the break-in unit killed two bodyguards and a gardener on the premises.   

“It seemed like Abu Jihad was holding a pistol in his hand,” Lev said.

“I shot him with a long burst of fire," recounted Lev, the first religious officer in the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal. "I was careful not to hurt his wife, who had showed up there. He died. The extra forces came and made sure he was dead.”

Abu Jihad was believed to have been the mastermind of several deadly attacks in Israel and to have helped coordinate the first intifada.

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