Israel admits assassinating Palestinian commander in Tunisia

Abu JihadBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Israel have authorized the publication of an interview acknowledging Israel’s role in the assassination of a senior Palestinian military commander in Tunisia in 1988. The target of the assassination was Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad, one of the co-founders of Fatah, the secular wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization chaired by Yasser Arafat. In the 1960s and 1970s, Abu Jihad rose within the ranks of Fatah and eventually became commander of its armed wing, known as al-Assifa. However, he was killed on April 16, 1988, when a group of unidentified gunmen stormed his villa in Tunisian capital Tunis, before managing to slip away. In the past 23 years, the Israeli intelligence services have been repeatedly singled out as prime suspects in Abu Jihad’s assassination. Nearly 15 years ago, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot announced that it had secured an interview with an Israeli commando who had a leading role in the operation and had been the one who fired the shots that killed the Fatah commander. But the interview was blocked from publication by the Israeli military censors, who, under Israeli law, have the power to prevent the airing of information that might harm national security. In 2000, however, the commando, Nahum Lev, died in a motorcycle accident, which prompted the Israeli newspaper to renew its application for the ban on the interview to be lifted. This week, Israeli authorities officially lifted the ban, which allowed Yedioth Ahronot to run the interview with Lev. The airing of the interview was coupled by a more substantial account of the operation, which appeared in the specialist Israel Defense magazine. According to the article, the operation was planned over several months by the Israeli covert action agency Mossad and the Sayaret Matkal, a special forces unit of the Israel Defense Forces. It involved 26 commandos who allegedly reached the Tunisian shore on rubber boats. Several of them walked the streets of Tunis disguised as women tourists. Read more of this post

New Israeli special forces command escalates covert action

Benny GantzBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In recent months, intelNews has paid particular attention to senior Israeli security officials, or former officials, who routinely caution against plans for an Israeli military attack on Iran. These include Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence directorate, and former Mossad Directors Meir Dagan and Tamir Pardo, who believes that a nuclear-armed Iran “would not be an existential threat to Israel”. But such current or former Israeli officials, who view a possible Israeli military attack on Iran as catastrophic, should not be seen as advocating pacifist views. On the contrary, they caution against an open Israeli military attack on Iran, favoring instead a covert-action approach. There are now signs that, under pressure by the United States, the Israeli administration of Benjamin Netanyahu is gradually heeding such advice. One such indication is to be found in the increasingly instrumental role played by Benny Gantz, the Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. Lieutenant-General Gantz, who rose to the position of Israel’s most powerful soldier in February of 2011, arguably represents the most hawkish wing of the Israeli military. He is also one of the most vocal adherents of Israeli military supremacy in the Middle East ‘by any means necessary’. In April, he spoke publicly to confirm that, under his leadership, the Israeli military has “escalated special operations beyond the country’s borders”. Since then, he has refused to provide details of such operations, which he has described as “highly classified”. But an article published earlier this month in The Jerusalem Post discusses the rise in Israeli covert operations in the context of a new Israeli special forces command called Deep Corps. Read more of this post