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West German Authorities Accused of Bungling Rescue of Israeli Hostages by Yitzhak Shargil JTA Tel Av

September 8, 1972
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Israeli circles claimed today that West German authorities bungled their efforts to rescue the nine Israeli hostages murdered by Arab terrorists in Munich. The nine members of Israel’s Olympic squad were slain during a gun battle between the terrorists and German security forces at Furstenfeldbruck military airport 23 hours after a terrorist attack on the Israeli compound in Olympic Village in which two other team members were killed.

Israeli sources said it was not beyond the realm of possibility that some of the Israeli hostages were hit by German bullets in the confusion of the airport shoot-out. The circles here, apparently representing professional military opinion, said they based their conclusions on the details available so far of the abortive rescue operation.

They said the German rescue plan was riddled with errors and that the German military made every possible mistake and missed opportunities. They also implied that the German security forces were less than daring in carrying out their plans. The Israeli circles said their criticism was not related to the general matter of security at Olympic Village but to the way the Germans acted after the terrorist attack and capture of the hostages.


They said the Germans won precious time in their prolonged negotiations with the terrorists but did not make good use of it. They also said the German Army units assigned to the rescue operation demonstrated a low standard of efficiency although they were supposed to be one of the Army’s elite units.

The Israelis criticized the German failure to act while the terrorists removed the hostages from their rooms to a bus and later when they were transferred from the bus to helicopters in the Olympic Village square. The most serious mistake, the Israelis said, was in opening fire on the terrorists at Furstenfeldbruck airport from long range, a safe distance for the German sharpshooters but unwise because not all of the terrorists were exposed. The Germans should have known that other armed terrorists were still in the helicopters with the hostages ready to kill them.

According to eye-witness accounts, some of the hostages were shot to death and the others died when a terrorist grenaded their helicopter. The Israelis said the Germans had ample time to bring to bear the most sophisticated means available to forestall the terrorists’ plans but failed to do so. They said the Lufthansa Boeing 727 made available to fly the terrorists and hostages to Cairo was not even booby-trapped for any eventuality.

It was learned here today that a senior Israeli military personality, otherwise unidentified, flew to Munich Tuesday while the Germans were still negotiating with the terrorists. He reportedly pointed out to the German commanders where their plan was weak but the Germans decided to stick by it nonetheless, it was said here today.

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