Israel confirms killing Arafat deputy in 1988

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Dozens of similar operations have been attributed to Israel over the decades. But Israel rarely takes responsibility, and this public acknowledgement gives a rare glimpse into its covert operations.

Abu Jihad founded the Palestine Liberation Organization with Arafat and was blamed for a series of deadly attacks against Israelis. Among them, he masterminded a 1978 attack on an Israeli bus that killed 38 Israelis. Later, he organized the first Palestinian uprising against Israel, which began in December 1987.

The following April, Israel killed him.

According to the Yediot report, the operation was a joint effort by the Mossad secret service and the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal.

At the time of the raid, the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by Arafat, was based in Tunisia.

From a command post on an Israeli boat in the Mediterranean Sea, 26 Israeli commandos reached the shores of the North African nation of Tunisia on rubber boats.

Lev, the commando, approached Abu Jihad’s home in the capital Tunis with another soldier who was dressed as a woman. The two pretended to be a vacationing couple, with Lev carrying what appeared to be a large box of chocolates. Inside the box, however, was a gun fitted with a silencer.

Upon encountering the first of Abu Jihad's bodyguards, Lev drew his weapon and shot the man in the head. Another team killed a separate bodyguard and a gardener before entering the expansive villa. Lev's partner was the first to fire at the Palestinian leader. When Lev noticed Abu Jihad reaching for a weapon he shot and killed him.

It was not clear why Israel’s military censor permitted publication of the report now, at least 12 years after the paper got the interview with the commando. The censor has authority to block publication of material deemed a threat to national security.

The Palestinians have long accused Israel of being behind the assassination. Nonetheless, Abbas Zaki, a top official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, said the Palestinians and Tunisia should now “work to bring Israel to justice.” Fatah is the dominant faction in the PLO.

Wazir’s son, Jihad al-Wazir, who currently heads the Palestinian central bank, said the family had no comment.

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