May 16, 2020

Operation Wrath of God

The Munich Massacre

The Munich games marked the comeback of the Olympics to a German city since the 1936 games in Berlin.

Everything was going as expected until around 4:30 am on September 5, 1972, when the day of horror begun, the fence surrounding the Olympic village, Munich was scaled by eight Palestinian militants associated with Black September- a militant offshoot of the Palestinian group Fatah.

Carrying assault rifles and grenades, they took a group of Israeli officials and trainers hostage: Yossef Gutfreund, Amitzur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Andrie Spitzer, Jacov Springer, and Moshe Weinberg. They also captured Israeli wrestlers and weightlifters Eliezer Halfin, Yossef Romano, Mark Slavin, David Beyer (a law graduate), and Zeev Friedman.

When the Israelis engaged in combat as defense, the Palestinians opened fire, killing Romano and Weinberg. The others were overpowered and taken hostage.

Shortly after the crisis began a Black September spokesman demanded the release of 234 Palestinians jailed in Israel along with founders of the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baadar, and Ulrike Meinh held in West-Germany.

Thus began a siege and tragedy that remains one of the most unforgettable terror attacks of modern times. The assault, and the nature of the Israeli response, thrust the Israel-Palestinian crisis into the world spotlight, set the tone for decades of conflict in the middle east and launched a new era of international terrorism.

Israel’s response to the demand was immediate and absolute: there would be no negotiation. Israel’s government at the time did not entertain negotiation with terrorists as they believed it would give incentive to future attacks.

After all this, you must be thinking how come they didn’t plan a rescue mission. Well they did, the Israelis were rescued in a helicopter but at the last moment, one of the attackers pulled the pin and tossed a grenade into the cockpit incinerating the bound Israelis inside.

For the zirst time in history, the Olympics were suspended for 24 hours to pay homage to the murdered athletes.

Israel and Palestine have had bad blood for a long time. The Munich Massacre was a product of the ongoing Arab-Israel conflict, a set of hostilities that had raged between Israel and the Arab world for decades.

Black September called the operation ‘Iqrit and Biram’, after the two Palestinian Christian villages whose inhabitants were expelled by the Israel Defence Forces(IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

But Israel wouldn’t just give in to its enemy, they wouldn’t surrender to Palestine. This is when Operation Wrath of God came into the picture

Israel’s response

Israel retaliated by bombing ten Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) bases in Lebanon and Syria, just two days after the dreadful incident at the Munich games.

Israeli Mossad initiated one of the most ambitious counterterrorism campaigns in history, Operation Bayonet, also known as Operation Wrath of God.

Prime Minister Golda Meir set up Committee X, a group of government officials assigned to formulate Israel’s response, leading it along with Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.

Mossad Director Zvi Zamir along with General Aahron Yariv, her advisors on counterterrorism, had the principal role in directing the operation.

The committee concluded that it was necessary to assassinate those responsible and part of the Munich massacre, to deter future attacks against Israel.

Meir reluctantly authorized the operation, but when she found out that two Black September terrorists had hijacked a Lufthansa Boeing 727 on its way from Damascus, Syria to Frankfurt, demanding the release of the Munich massacre perpetrators, any hesitation and uncertainty she had was removed.

The perpetrators were released by West Germany with compliance to the demands of the hijackers.

The team was divided into 3 units:

Team 1: The first team was involved in target identification. The specialists had to be 100 percent sure before taking any action.

Team 2: This was the logistics team that looked after fake IDs, renting apartments, exit strategy, removing traces of Mossad’s involvement, etc.

Team 3: The third team handled communication between the ground team and the Mossad headquarters and Committee X.

The Assassinations 

  • The assassinations of Palestinian Wael Zwaiter took place on October 16, 1972, in Rome when Mossad agents had been waiting for him to return from dinner. He was shot 12 times.
  • The next target was Mahmoud Hamshari, the PLO of France. Using an agent posing as an Italian journalist, Mossad operatives lured him from his apartment and placed an explosive on his telephone. The agent called Hamshari’s apartment posing as the journalist and when Hamshari identified himself the bomb was detonated.
  • The Fatah representative of Cyprus, Hussein Al Bashir (a Jordanian)  was killed on the night of January 24, 1973. As Bashir turned off the lights of his hotel room in Nicosia, a bomb planted under his bed was remotely detonated, killing him and destroying the room.
  • Basil al Kubaissi, a law professor at the American University of Beirut was gunned down in Paris on April 6, 1973.
  • In Beirut, commandos and Mossad operatives raided guarded apartment buildings and killed Youssef al-Najjar (Operations leader in Black September), Kamal Adwan (a Chief of Operations in the PLO) and Kamal Nasser (PLO executive committee member and spokesman)
  • Zaiad Muchasi, the replacement of Hussein al Bashir in Cyprus was killed by a bomb on 11 April. Abdel Hamid Shibi and Abdel Hadi Nakaa (two minor Black September members) were seriously injured when their car was bombed in Rome.
  • On June 28, 1973, Boudia was killed in Paris by a pressure-activated bomb under his car seat.
  • Two Palestinians, Ali Salem Ahmed and Ibrahim Abdul Aziz were killed in Cyprus on December 15, 1979.
  • Nazeyh Mayer, a leading figure in the PLO's Rome office, was shot dead outside his home. Kamal Husain, deputy director of the PLO office in Rome, was killed by a shrapnel bomb.
  • On July 23, 1982, Fadl Dani, deputy director of the PLO office in Paris, was killed by a bomb in his car. PLO official Mamoun Meraish was killed in his car in Athens by two Mossad operatives who shot him from a motorcycle
  • A Car bomb exploded in Limassol, Cyprus, killing Palestinians Abu Al Hassan Qasim and Hamdi Adwan, and wounding Marwan Kanafami.

But now the search was for the mastermind of the massacre, The Red Prince, Ali Hassan Salameh.

After about a whole year, Mossad believed to have found him in Lillehammer, a small Norwegian town. Mossad agents shot and killed Ahmed Bouchiki, a waiter who was later found out to be innocent after an informant mistakenly identified him as Salameh. This seemingly small mistake led to the death of an innocent man.

After the Lillehammer affair, Golda Meir was forced to order the suspension of Operation Wrath of God.

The operation was recommenced under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The Mossad began surveillance of Salahmeh’s movement and finally tracked him down to Beirut.

As Salameh and four bodyguards drove down the street in a Chevrolet station wagon, the explosives in the Volkswagen placed by Mossad operatives were detonated from the apartment with a radio device, killing everyone in the vehicle.

With these operations, Israel infused the feeling of terror in the hearts of their enemy.

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