Israel’s spy agency Mossad and the country’s special forces have carried out a
number of assassinations of Palestinian militants in the past and have also
been blamed for killings which the Jewish state has never publicly taken
In addition, the army and air force have carried out so-called ‘targeted
killings’ of numerous Palestinian leaders accused of masterminding attacks
One of the highest profile assassinations was the 1988 killing of Khalil
al-Wazir, widely known as Abu Jihad, who had been a co-founder of Yasser
Arafat’s Fatah movement. He was killed in his home with his family in Tunis
when a hit squad from the Israeli army’s elite Sayeret Matkal, travelling
with fake Lebanese passports, burst in as he was watching the news of the
Palestinian uprising on the television.
In 1997, Israeli agents also tried to assassinate Khaled Meshaal, a senior
member of Hamas’ political bureau, in his office in Amman at a time when the
Islamist group was carrying out suicide bombings inside Israel’s cities.
One of the agents who had infiltrated his office sprayed a powerful nerve
agent into his ear, but one of his bodyguards helped Jordanian authorities
track down the assassins. They were arrested and held until Binyamin
Netanyahu, who was then in his first term as prime minister, agreed to hand
over the antidote.
One of the most successful assassinations attributed to Israel, but which it
has never acknowledged publicly, was the death of Imad Mughniyah, the head
of Hezbollah’s armed wing and the world’s most wanted terrorist before Osama
bin Laden carried out the September 11 2001 attacks.
He had been behind deadly attacks against Jewish organisations in Argentina
and had transformed the Lebanese militia into the most successful guerrilla
group in the Arab world. Israeli and other western spy agencies had been
trying to kill him for years when he died in a mysterious explosion In his
car in Damascus in 2008.
Israel has also carried out a series of air strikes that killed Hamas leaders,
including a rocket attack on the home of the group’s founder and spiritual
leader, the quadriplegic Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza in 2004, and then
killed his successor, Abdelaziz al-Rantissi, in an almost identical strike
just four weeks later.