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MUNICH MASSACREEleven Israeli Olympic athletes and trainers were massacred in a terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.
On September 5, 1972, as people throughout the world sat glued to their television sets, watching the Munich Olympics, PLO terrorists burst into the apartment complex housing the Israeli team, killed one, and took eight of the athletes hostage. This was the culmination of a long string of attacks leveled by terrorists against Israeli targets, including an attack three months earlier at Lod airport, in which 26 people had been killed, and 80 wounded.

34 Photographs of the Horrific 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre

A crowd gathers to get updates on the unfolding events. Black September demanded the release of 200 political prisoners. The Israeli government refused to negotiate. The German authorities, without anti-terrorist response unit, didn&rsquot know what to do. CNN Blood stains and bullet holes mark the place where the armed Palestinian terrorists killed two of the Olympians, the other nine died just hours later. Daily Mail Ankie Spitzer in the room where her husband, Andre, the Israeli fencing coach, was killed by terrorists in 1972. She has urged the I.O.C. to hold a moment of silence at the Olympic Games. Credit Associated Press A German Army bus is parked underneath the hotel that nine of the Israeli hostages were inside at the time. Daily Mail Helicopters were prepped and ready on the tarmac. The rescue mission failed and all the hostages were killed. CNN The wrecked helicopter that was the center of a failed rescue attempt at a military airport in Fürstenfeldbruck. All nine hostages left, five Arab terrorists and a Munich police officer lost their lives during the operation. Daily Mail The world watched as the crisis was televised. The world showed its support for Israel. CNN The stunned Israeli athletes and officials return home. CNN A coffin with one of the slain Israeli Olympians is carried out of the Munich Olympic Village a day after the horrendous attacks unfolded. Daily Mail A military escort transports the coffins of the dead athletes and officials back to Israel. CNN The Olympic flag hangs at half-mast during the funeral ceremony in the Olympic Stadium for the victims of the terrorist attack. Daily Mail There were plans for then-German Foreign Minister Walter Scheel (right, seen here with Chancellor Willy Brandt in September 1972) to meet in secret with one of the founders of Black September in Cairo. spiegel The German Foreign Ministry later asked the PLO not to carry out operations on German soil. The then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat apparently complied. In return, he was allowed to send an envoy to Bonn who championed the PLO&rsquos interests. Spiegel Weightlifter Yossef Romano was mutilated and tortured by Palestinian terrorists during the attack. Daily Mail Dan Alon is seen in his fencing gear when he was a member of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. Alon, who survived the Munich Massacre, gave up the sport after the tragic event. naplesnews Members of Israel&rsquos Olympic team placed black ribbons in their pockets mourning for their comrades killed in the Arab terrorist attack and subsequent police shootout as they leave the Olympic stadium in Munich, West Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1972, after a memorial service. All 11 Israeli hostages were killed. AP Photo Six of the 11 Israeli hostages killed by the Palestinian &lsquoBlack September&rsquo cell at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Yossef Romano, the torture victim, is top center. Daily Mail From left to right- Sirimer Mohammed Abdullah, Ibrahim Mosoud Badran and Abed Kair Al Dnawly, three of the Arab terrorists who broke into the Munich Olympic Village. Pinterest

More Israeli hostages killed in Munich

At Furstenfeldbruck air base near Munich, an attempt by West German police to rescue nine Israeli Olympic team members held hostage by Palestinian terrorists ends in disaster. In an extended firefight that began at 11 p.m. and lasted until 1:30 a.m., all nine Israeli hostages were killed, as were five terrorists and one German policeman. Three terrorists were wounded and captured alive. The hostage crisis began early the previous morning when Palestinian terrorists from the Black September organization stormed the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village in Munich, killing two team members and taking nine others hostage.

The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, were publicized by organizers as the “Games of Peace and Joy.” West Germans were intent on erasing the memory of the last Olympics held in Germany: the 1936 Berlin Olympics that Adolf Hitler exploited as a vehicle of Nazi propaganda. Police in Munich–the birthplace of Nazism–kept a low profile during the 1972 Games, and organizers chose lax security over risking comparison with the Gestapo police tactics of Hitler’s Germany.

So just before dawn on September 5, 1972–the eleventh day of the XX Olympiad𠄾vidently no one thought it strange that five Arab men in track suits were climbing over a six-and-a-half-foot fence to gain access to the Olympic Village. The village, after all, had a curfew, and many other Olympic athletes had employed fence climbing as a means of enjoying a late night out on the town. In fact, some Americans returning from a bar joined them in climbing the fence. A handful of other witnesses hardly gave the five men a second glance, and the intruders proceeded unmolested to the three-story building where the small Israeli delegation to the Munich Games was staying.

These five men, of course, were not Olympic athletes but members of Black September, an extremist Palestinian group formed in 1971. In their athletic bags they carried automatic rifles and other weapons. They were joined in the village by three other terrorists, two of whom were employed within the Olympic compound.

Shortly before 5 a.m., the guerrillas forced their way into one of the Israeli apartments, taking five hostages. When the Palestinians entered another apartment, Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg struggled with them. He was shot to death after knocking two of his attackers down. Weightlifter Yossef Romano then attacked them with a kitchen knife, and he succeeded in injuring one terrorist before he was fatally shot. Some Israelis managed narrowly to escape through a back entrance, but a total of nine were seized. Four of the hostages were athletes–two weightlifters and two wrestlers𠄺nd five were coaches. One of the wrestlers, David Berger, had dual American-Israeli citizenship and lived in Ohio before qualifying for the Israeli Olympic team.

Around 8 a.m., the attackers announced themselves as Palestinians and issued their demands: the release of 234 Arab and German prisoners held in Israel and West Germany, and safe passage with their hostages to Cairo. The German prisoners requested to be released included Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, founders of the Marxist terrorist group known as the Red Army Faction. If the Palestinians’ demands were not met, the nine hostages would be killed. Tense negotiations stretched on throughout the day, complicated by Israel’s refusal to negotiate with these or any terrorists. The German police considered raiding the Israeli compound but later abandoned the plan out of fear for the safety of the hostages and other athletes in the Olympic Village. Ten West German Olympic organizers offered themselves as hostages in exchange for the Israeli team members, but the offer was declined.

Finally, in the early evening, the terrorists agreed to a plan in which they were to be taken by helicopter to the NATO air base atਏürstenfeldbruckਊnd then flown by airliner to Cairo with the hostages. The terrorists believed they would be met in Egypt by the released Arab and German prisoners. Around 10 p.m., the terrorists and hostages emerged from the building the Israelis bound together and blindfolded. They took a bus to a makeshift helicopter pad and were flown the 12 miles to Fürstenfeldbruck.

German authorities feared that the Israelis faced certain death upon their arrival in the Middle East. Egypt had denied the request to allow the plane to land in Cairo, and Israel would never release the Arab prisoners in question. Israel had a crack military task force ready to raid the plane wherever it landed, but the German police planned their own ambush. In the course of the transfer, however, the Germans discovered that there were eight terrorists instead of the expected five. They had not assigned enough marksmen to kill the terrorists and, moreover, lacked the gear, such as walkie-talkies and bulletproof vests, necessary to carry out such an ambush effectively. Nevertheless, shortly before 11 p.m., the sharpshooters opened fire. Their shots were off mark in the dark, and the terrorists fired back.

Toward the end of the firefight, which lasted more than two hours, the Palestinians gunned down four of the hostages in one of the helicopters and tossed a grenade into another helicopter holding the other five–killing them all. At approximately 1:30 a.m., the last terrorist still resisting was killed. All eight Palestinians were shot during the gun battle𠄿ive fatally𠄺nd a German policeman was killed. One of the helicopter pilots was also seriously injured.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Munich Games were temporarily suspended. A memorial service for the 11 slain Israelis drew 80,000 mourners to the Olympic stadium on September 6. International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage, who was widely criticized for failing to suspend the Games during the hostage crisis, was further criticized for his decision to resume them on the afternoon of September 6. On September 11, closing ceremonies ended the XX Olympiad.

On October 29, Palestinian terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa jet in Beirut and ordered it flown to Munich, where the three surviving Munich terrorists were being held. Germany agreed to turn the terrorists over in exchange for the release of the airliner’s passengers and crew, which was carried out after the jet landed in Libya. The Black September terrorists, however, did not enjoy their freedom for long. Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, formed an assassination squad that eventually killed two of the three terrorists along with at least six others believed to have been involved in the attack on the Israeli Olympic compound. One of the Munich terrorists, Jamal al-Gashey, survives in hiding.

The Demands

The terrorists demanded the release of 234 Arab prisoners jailed in Israel and two West German terrorists: Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Faction. Israel’s government was against any negotiations and was firm on its stand. As per the reports, it is claimed that Israel did offer to send Israeli Special Forces, but the offer was rejected by the West Germany authorities.

The terrorists also demanded their safe passage from Germany to an Arab country. Ultimately, Cairo was chosen as the destination.

1972 Olympics: The Munich Massacre

This is the story of “Black September,” when eleven Israeli athletes were held hostage and murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

This video comes with a 5-part educational guide (includes REVIEW, DISCUSSION, ACTIVITIES, REFLECTION, FURTHER LEARNING) that can be viewed online and/or downloaded as a PDF, along with a Kahoot game.

It is also part of a series titled History of Israel Explained.

Only 27 years after the Holocaust, in which some of these athletes’ families were killed, Jewish blood was once again spilled on German soil. The video explains the terrorists’ actions, the botched German rescue attempt, the international reaction, and Israel’s response. Together with the educator’s guide, the video will encourage students to consider a pretty scary question: Does terrorism work? If so, how should the world respond to this?

Remembering the Israeli Victims of the 1972 'Munich Massacre'

A few years ago, I traveled from Israel to the U.S. with a layover in Munich. I had never been to Germany.

Germany, and its history as concerns Jews, is not only not of interest to me, but, as an Orthodox Jew, the idea of being there makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the best itinerary was through Munich. I rationalized that I wasn't leaving the airport.

After landing, I made my way toward the connecting flight's gate. I was surprised that, although I hadn't left the airport, there was additional security for passengers on connecting flights. I understand now that this is not uncommon, that no airport that serves as a hub for connecting international flights can necessarily rely on the originating airport's security.

However, I was arriving from Israel, the airport and country with arguably the most sophisticated level of security in the world. Bother me with scanning my carry-on? Take away items that were fine to fly with in Tel Aviv? How annoying and unsophisticated. It felt that rather than being effective in catching terrorists, it was just a systematic delay to keep me from getting to my connecting flight.

I kept thinking, If they had this level of security and cared enough in 1972, people would only know Munich as an airport hub, not as the site of one of the world's most egregious and horrific terror attacks.

To me, Munich is and always will be defined by the Palestinian Arab hostage-taking, terror attack, botched rescue and murder of 11 Israeli athletes 48 years ago this week at the Munich Olympics. For a country known for its precision, Germany's lack of preparedness was particularly egregious. It is unimaginable how a country that, three decades before, had made genocide systematic, was unable&mdashor unwilling&mdashto protect the athletes.

The 1972 Olympics were used to rehabilitate Germany's image as a kinder and gentler Germany. Security was largely unobtrusive, undercover and unarmed, mostly prepared to deal with unrest in the form of ticket scalpers and public disorder. The head of the Israeli delegation, Shmuel Lalkin, expressed concern about the Israeli team's accommodations on the ground floor of a small building close to a gate, making them particularly vulnerable. German authorities supposedly promised extra security.

The terrorists' carefully planned attack began in the early morning of Sept. 5. As the athletes slept, eight Palestinian Arab terrorists wearing track suits scaled a two-meter fence to sneak into the Olympic Village, carrying duffel bags loaded with assault rifles, pistols and grenades.

After murdering 2 of the 11 Israeli athletes immediately, they took the nine additional members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, with demands of safe passage out of Germany and that Israel release 234 Palestinian Arab prisoners in Israel jails, as well as the German-held founders of the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir appealed to other countries to "save our citizens and condemn the unspeakable criminal acts committed," also noting, "if we should give in, no Israeli anywhere in the world shall feel that his life is safe . it's blackmail of the worst kind."

Munich is a long, bungled and murky story. Allegations of poor planning, refusing Israel's assistance, incompetence in the rescue and even having advanced knowledge which they covered up, all plague Germany today. Adding to perception of incompetence was a sense of German indifference that the hostages/victims were Jews. This perception increased by the immediate release of the bodies of the dead terrorists, and of the survivors two months later&mdashto a heroes' welcome in Libya.

The World Watching

In Munich, the games and athletes carried on as normal, oblivious to or indifferent about the attack taking place nearby. The games continued until pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forced a suspension some 12 hours after the first athlete had been murdered.

Twelve hours after the attack began, German police with no experience in hostage rescue were dispatched to the Olympic Village. Stupidly, their presence was filmed and broadcast on live television, enabling the terrorists to watch the police prepare to attack.

German negotiators demanded direct contact with the hostages to show that the Israelis were alive. Fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who spoke fluent German, and shooting coach Kehat Shorr, the senior member of the Israeli delegation, spoke briefly with German officials from a second-floor window. When Spitzer attempted to answer a question, he was clubbed with the butt of a rifle, also filmed on live television, and dragged from the window.

While all this was happening, news reports indicated that the hostages were alive, and that the terrorists had been killed. American broadcaster Jim McKay was reporting live when he received confirmation of the massacre: "We just got the final word . you know, when I was a kid, my father used to say, 'Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.' Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone."

The Aftermath

Following a Sept. 6 memorial that was criticized for sparse reference to the Israeli victims, the remaining Israeli athletes left Germany. Jewish athletes from other counties also left or were provided extra security.

For decades, families of some victims appealed to the IOC to establish a permanent memorial. For decades, the IOC declined, worried that a memorial to the victims could "alienate other members of the Olympic community," according to the BBC.

The IOC rejected an international campaign in support of a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics in memory of the Israeli victims on the massacre's 40th anniversary. Finally, the IOC conceded, honoring the Israeli victims before the 2016 Rio games.

Israel was well accustomed to war and terror. Its response was particularly resolute. Citing justice and that Israelis would not be safe anywhere, Golda Meir authorized Operation Grapes of Wrath, and the Mossad began to track down and kill those responsible for the Munich massacre.

Munich Today

Years later, one of the masterminds who escaped justice, Abu Daoud, wrote that funding for the Munich attack was provided by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President since 2005. Had Israel known about that then, it's possible Abbas would also have been eliminated along with the other masterminds. Now, he's president of an entity next to Israel that still supports terror.

The ghosts of Munich have also haunted U.S. politics. Today, a candidate for Congress, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is the grandson of Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, a mastermind of the Munich terrorist attack. Though he repudiates his grandfather's actions, other Campa-Najjar statements have raised questions over how true that is.

Remembering the Victims

It's inappropriate to write of the victims and not mention their names. Each led a full life and left behind families and legacies that should not be forgotten, even five decades later: David Berger, Zeev Friedman, Yosef Gutfreund, Eliezer Halfin, Yossef Romano, Amitzur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer, Yakov Springer and Moshe Weinberg.

In their memory, the Genesis 123 Foundation will be holding a webinar on Sept. 9 with two current Israeli Olympians and the widow of Andre Spitzer. For information or to register please visit this page.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The Follow-Up to the Munich Massacre (1972)

According to King, NIPQ 22.4 (Sep. 2006), the leader of the five Israelis sent to avenge the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre has given his account of the operation to Canadian journalist Jonas. The book "takes the reader into the world of espionage, terrorism and political murder -- and technique." This "is an important and well-written account."

Klein, Aaron J. Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response. New York: Random House, 2005.

The Publishers Weekly reviewer (via finds that "Klein's account is well researched and highly valuable. [W]hile the episodic structure he employs becomes repetitive, it is nevertheless a necessary read for anyone interested in Israeli history and politics as well as the birth of modern counter-terrorism." According to Associated Press, "Book Details Mossad's Chocolate Assassination," 6 May 2006, the author says that Mossad killed Wadia Haddad, an operative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in Baghdad by feeding him poisoned Belgian chocolate over a period of six months. Haddad died in March 1978.

Tinnin, David B., and Dag Christensen. The Hit Team . Boston: Little, Brown, 1976. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1976. New York: Dell, 1977. [pb]


Name Sport Event Placing Performance
Shaul Ladani Athletics Men's 50 km walk 19 4:24:38.6 [7]
(also entered for 20 km walk, but did not start) [7]
Esther Shahamorov Athletics Women's 100 m Semifinal (5th) 11.49 [8]
Women's 100 m hurdles Semifinal [8] Did not start (left Munich before the semifinal)
Dan Alon Fencing Men's foil Second round W5–L5 (1R 3-2, 2R 2-3) [9]
Yehuda Weissenstein Fencing Men's foil Second round W2–L8 (1R 2-3, 2R 0-5) [9]
Yair Michaeli Sailing Flying Dutchman 23 28-22-22-19-25-19-DNS = 171 pts
(left Kiel before 7th race) [10]
Itzhak Nir
Henry Hershkowitz Shooting 50 metre rifle prone 23 593/600 [11]
50 metre rifle three positions 46 1114/1200 [12]
Zelig Shtroch Shooting 50 metre rifle prone 57 589/600 [11]
Shlomit Nir Swimming Women's 100 m breaststroke Heats (8th) 1:20.90 [13]
Women's 200 m breaststroke Heats (6th) 2:53.60 [13]
David Berger Weightlifting Light-heavyweight <82.5 kg J:132.5 C:122.5 S:— T:— [14]
Ze'ev Friedman Weightlifting Bantamweight <56 kg 12 J:102.5 C:102.5 S:125 T:330 [15]
Yossef Romano Weightlifting Middleweight <75 kg (retired injured on third attempt to press 137.5 kg [14] )
Gad Tsobari Wrestling Freestyle — Light Flyweight <48 kg Group stage 0W–2L [16]
Eliezer Halfin Wrestling Freestyle — Lightweight <68 kg Group stage 1W–2L [17]
Mark Slavin Wrestling Greco-Roman — Middleweight <82 kg (taken hostage before his scheduled event)

The following nominated referees and judges were in the delegation: [18]

The following coaches and officials were in the delegation: [19]

  • Shmuel Lalkin — Chef De Mission
  • Micha Shamban — presumably deputy of Chef De Mission
  • Eliyahu Friedlender - sailing team manager
  • Amitzur Shapira — athletics coach
  • Kehat Shorr — shooting coach
  • Tuvia Sokolovsky — weightlifting coach [20]
  • Andre Spitzer — fencing coach
  • Moshe Weinberg — wrestling coach
  • Itzhac Aldubi - chairman of ASA (Academic Sport Association)
  • Duel Parrack
  • Josef Szwec
  • Kurt Weigl
  1. ^IsraelArchived 2015-06-28 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ ab"Shaul Ladany Bio, Stats, and Results | Olympics at". Archived from the original on February 7, 2013 . Retrieved February 24, 2013 .
  3. ^
  4. "Ladany, Shaul". . Retrieved February 24, 2013 .
  5. ^
  6. "Belsen Survivor Escapes Death Again". The Miami News. September 6, 1972 . Retrieved February 24, 2013 .
  7. ^ ab
  8. Owen, John (July 24, 2008). "Olympics Flashback: 1972: Terror and turmoil". . Retrieved February 25, 2013 .
  9. ^
  10. Stan Isaacs (2008). Ten Moments That Shook the Sports World: One Sportswriter's Eyewitness Accounts of the Most Incredible Sporting Events of the Past Fifty Years. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. ISBN9781602396289 . Retrieved February 24, 2013 .
  11. ^ abOfficial Report, p.56
  12. ^ abOfficial Report, p.65
  13. ^ abOfficial Report, pp.247–250
  14. ^Official Report, p.506
  15. ^ abOfficial Report, p.229
  16. ^Official Report, p.231
  17. ^ abOfficial Report, p.344
  18. ^ abOfficial Report, pp.166–7
  19. ^Official Report, pp.164–5
  20. ^Official Report, p.131
  21. ^Official Report, p.135
  22. ^Official Report, p.537
  23. ^Official Report, p.534
  24. ^
  25. Binder, David (1972-09-06). "9 Israelis on Olympic Team Killed with 4 Arab Captors as Police Fight Band that Disrupted Munich Games". New York Times . Retrieved 2008-08-31 .

This article related to sport in Israel is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

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German and Israeli responses

An inquiry into the tragedy, conducted by the German federal government, the Bavarian government, and the Munich police, found that the attack had been unavoidable. The officials involved effectively exonerated the police and themselves. They reached this conclusion despite having commissioned a report that had predicted the Black September attack with haunting specificity. In the months prior to the Games, the Munich Olympics organizing committee had asked police psychologist Georg Sieber to “tabletop” dozens of worst-case security scenarios. Among the 26 possibilities proposed by Sieber were attacks on the games by the Irish Republican Army, the Red Army Faction, ETA, and other terrorist groups. Sieber’s Situation 21 proposed that a dozen Palestinian gunmen would scale the fence of the Olympic Village at 5:00 am , seize Israeli hostages, kill one or two, and issue a demand for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails and an aircraft to fly them to the Middle East. The organizing committee determined that preparing for threats such as those proposed by Sieber would create a security environment that was not in keeping with their vision for the Games. Within hours of the attack on the Olympic Village, Sieber was dismissed from his advisory position by an administrative apparatus that had already begun working to conceal evidence of its mistakes.

On October 29, less than two months after the massacre, two Black September terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa Boeing 727 on its way from Damascus, Syria, to Frankfurt and threatened to blow it up, with the crew and passengers, if their demands were not met. The hijacked plane circled over Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia), while the three surviving Munich gunmen, who had been awaiting trial, were taken from separate prisons and flown to Zagreb in a private jet. The guerrillas were taken aboard the Boeing, which then flew to Tripoli, Libya, where the passengers and crew were released and the terrorists were welcomed as “heroes of the Munich operation.” At no point was Israel consulted about the exchange, and the unseemly haste with which West German authorities acquiesced to the hijackers’ demands raised questions about their possible complicity. Indeed, an investigation conducted by the makers of the Academy Award-winning documentary One Day in September (1999) found that the “hijacked” plane had been selected in advance by West German officials and Fatah. The airliner was empty when it left Damascus, and fewer than a dozen passengers—all men—boarded during a scheduled stopover in Beirut. In exchange for the release of the prisoners, Bonn had secured a promise from Fatah not to conduct operations within West Germany.

Israel’s prime minister, Golda Meir, responded by authorizing Operation Wrath of God, a targeted assassination campaign against Black September operatives and organizers. After a series of spectacular operations cut a swathe through senior Palestinian leadership, that program was suspended in July1973 when the assassination squad mistakenly killed an innocent man in Lillehammer, Norway. In 1977 Abu Daoud, the planner of the Munich attack, was arrested in France, but West Germany’s extradition request was denied on a technicality, and he was released and flown to freedom in Algeria.

One positive step taken by West Germany in the wake of the events in Munich was the formation of a specialized counterterrorism unit with nationwide jurisdiction. Ulrich Wegener, who had been present as an advisor at Fürstenfeldbruck, was tasked with creating a paramilitary unit of the Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Guard). Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (Border Protection Group 9, or GSG 9) would establish itself as one of the most effective counterterrorism forces in the world.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Zeidan, Assistant Editor.


Two days after the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Israel retaliated by bombing ten PLO bases in Syria and Lebanon. Prime Minister Golda Meir created Committee X, a small group of government officials tasked with formulating an Israeli response, with herself and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan at the head. She also appointed General Aharon Yariv as her Advisor on Counterterrorism he, along with Mossad Director Zvi Zamir, took the principal role in directing the ensuing operation. The committee came to the conclusion that, to deter future violent incidents against Israel, they needed to assassinate those who had supported or carried out the Munich massacre, and in dramatic fashion.

Pressured by Israeli public opinion and top intelligence officials, Meir reluctantly authorized the beginning of the broad assassination campaign. [3] Yet when the three surviving perpetrators of the massacre were released just months later by West Germany in compliance with the demands of the hijackers of Lufthansa Flight 615, any remaining ambivalence she felt was removed. [4] The committee's first task for Israeli intelligence was to draw up an assassination list of all those involved in Munich. This was accomplished with the aid of PLO operatives working for Mossad, and with information provided by friendly European intelligence agencies. [5] While the contents of the entire list are unknown, reports put the final number of targets at 20–35, a mix of Black September and PLO elements. [nb 1] Once this was complete, Mossad was charged with locating the individuals and killing them.

Critical in the planning was the idea of plausible deniability, that it should be impossible to prove a direct connection between the assassinations and Israel. [6] In addition, the operations were more generally intended to terrorize Palestinian militants. According to David Kimche, former deputy head of Mossad, "The aim was not so much revenge but mainly to make them [the Palestinian terrorists] frightened. We wanted to make them look over their shoulders and feel that we are upon them. And therefore we tried not to do things by just shooting a guy in the street – that's easy . fairly." [7]

It is also known that Mossad agent Michael Harari led the creation and direction of the teams, [8] although some may not have always been under government responsibility. Author Simon Reeve explains that the Mossad team – whose squad names are letters of the Hebrew alphabet – consisted of:

. fifteen people divided into five squads: "Aleph", two trained killers "Bet", two guards who would shadow the Alephs "Het", two agents who would establish cover for the rest of the team by renting hotel rooms, apartments, cars, and so on "Ayin", comprising between six and eight agents who formed the backbone of the operation, shadowing targets and establishing an escape route for the Aleph and Bet squads and "Qoph", two agents specializing in communications. [9]

This is similar to former Mossad katsa Victor Ostrovsky's description of Mossad's own assassination teams, the Kidon. In fact, Ostrovsky says in his book that it was Kidon units that performed the assassinations. [10] This is supported by author Gordon Thomas who was given access to the debriefing reports submitted by the eight Kidon and 80 member backup team that were involved in the assassinations. [11]

Another report by author Aaron J. Klein says that these teams were actually part of a unit called Caesarea, which would be renamed and reorganized into Kidon in the mid-1970s. [12] Harari eventually commanded three Caesarea teams of around 12 members each. They were each further divided into logistics, surveillance, and assassination squads. [13]

One of the covert teams was revealed in the aftermath of the Lillehammer affair (see Ali Hassan Salameh section below), when six members of the Mossad assassination team were arrested by Norwegian authorities. Harari escaped to Israel, and it is possible that others were able to evade capture with him. An article in Time magazine immediately after the killing put the total number of Mossad personnel at 15, [14] which would also be similar to the above descriptions.

A markedly different account comes from the book Vengeance, where the author states that Mossad set up a five-man unit of trained intelligence personnel in Europe – a unit which was led by the person who was also the author's source, for the information. The book also says that the team operated outside of direct government control, and that its only communications were with Harari. [6]

Several hours before each assassination, each target's family received flowers with a condolence card reading: "A reminder we do not forget or forgive." [11]


The first assassination occurred on October 16, 1972, when Palestinian Wael Zwaiter was killed in Rome. Mossad agents had been waiting for him to return from dinner, and shot him twelve times. [15] After the shooting, the agents were spirited away to a safe house. At the time, Zwaiter was the PLO representative in Italy, and while Israel privately claimed he was a member of Black September and was involved in a failed plot against an El Al airliner, members of the PLO argued that he was in no way connected. Abu Iyad, deputy-chief of the PLO, stated that Zwaiter was "energetically" against terrorism. [16]

The second target of Mossad was Mahmoud Hamshari, the PLO representative in France. Israel believed that he was the leader of Black September in France. Using an agent posing as an Italian journalist, Mossad lured him from his apartment in Paris to allow a demolition team to enter and install a bomb underneath a desk telephone. On December 8, 1972, the agent posing as a journalist phoned Hamshari's apartment and asked if he was speaking to Hamshari. After Hamshari identified himself, the agent signalled to other colleagues, who then sent a detonation signal down the telephone line, causing the bomb to explode. Hamshari was mortally wounded in the explosion, but managed to remain conscious long enough to tell detectives what had happened. Hamshari died in a hospital several weeks later. [17] He had given an interview a day after the hostage crisis, saying he was not worried for his life, but did not want to "taunt the devil." [18] Mossad did not comment on the fact that Hamsari was connected to the attack of Munich. [15] This assassination was the first in a series of Mossad targeted killings that took place in France. [19]

On the night of January 24, 1973, Hussein Al Bashir, a Jordanian, the Fatah representative in Cyprus, turned off the lights in his Olympic Hotel room in Nicosia. Moments later, a bomb planted under his bed was remotely detonated, killing him and destroying the room. Israel believed him to be the head of Black September in Cyprus, though another reason for his assassination may have been his close ties with the KGB. [20]

On April 6, 1973, Basil al-Kubaissi, a law professor at the American University of Beirut suspected by Israel of providing arms logistics for Black September as well as being involved in other Palestinian plots, [21] was gunned down in Paris while returning home from dinner. As in previous assassinations, he was shot around 12 times by two Mossad agents. According to police, the bullets were "carefully grouped about his heart and in his head". [22]

Three of the targets on the Mossad's list lived in heavily guarded houses in Lebanon that were beyond the reach of previous assassination methods. In order to assassinate them, Operation Spring of Youth was launched as a sub-operation of the larger "Wrath of God" campaign. On the night of April 9, 1973, Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13, and Sayeret Tzanhanim commandos landed on the coast of Lebanon in Zodiac speedboats launched from Israeli Navy missile boats offshore. The commandos were met by Mossad agents, who drove them to their targets in cars rented the previous day, and later drove them back to the beaches for extraction. The commandos were disguised as civilians, and some were dressed as women. In Beirut, they raided guarded apartment buildings and killed Muhammad 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). During the operation, two Lebanese police officers, an Italian citizen, and Najjar's wife were also killed. One Israeli commando was wounded. Sayeret Tzanhanim paratroopers raided a six-story building that served as the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The paratroopers met strong resistance and lost two soldiers, but managed to destroy the building. Shayetet 13 naval commandos and Sayeret Tzanhanim paratroopers also raided PLO arms-manufacturing facilities and fuel dumps. [23] Some 12–100 PLO and PFLP members were killed during the attacks. [ citation needed ]

Three attacks quickly followed the Lebanon operation. Zaiad Muchasi, the replacement for Hussein Al Bashir in Cyprus, was killed by a bomb in his Athens hotel room on April 11. Two minor Black September members, Abdel Hamid Shibi and Abdel Hadi Nakaa, were seriously injured when their car was bombed in Rome. [24]

Mossad agents also began to follow Mohammad Boudia, the Algerian-born director of operations for Black September in France, who was known for his disguises and womanizing. On June 28, 1973, Boudia was killed in Paris by a pressure-activated bomb packed with heavy nuts and bolts placed under his car seat. [25]

On December 15, 1979, two Palestinians, Ali Salem Ahmed and Ibrahim Abdul Aziz, were killed in Cyprus. According to police, both men were shot with suppressed weapons at point-blank range. [26]

On June 17, 1982, two senior PLO members in Italy were killed in separate attacks. 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 placed under the back seat of his car as he drove home, less than seven hours after he had visited the home of Mayer and helped the police in their investigation. [26]

On July 23, 1982, Fadl Dani, deputy director of the PLO office in Paris, was killed by a bomb that had been placed in his car. On August 21, 1983, PLO official Mamoun Meraish was killed in his car in Athens by two Mossad operatives who shot him from a motorcycle. [27]

On June 10, 1986, Khaled Ahmed Nazal, Secretary-General of the PLO's DFLP faction, was gunned down outside a hotel in Athens, Greece. Nazal was shot four times in the head. [26] On October 21, 1986, Munzer Abu Ghazala, a senior PLO official and member of the Palestinian National Council, was killed by a bomb as he drove through a suburb of Athens. [26] [28]

On February 14, 1988, a car bomb exploded in Limassol, Cyprus, killing Palestinians Abu Al Hassan Qasim and Hamdi Adwan, and wounding Marwan Kanafami. [26]

Ali Hassan Salameh

Mossad continued to search for Ali Hassan Salameh, nicknamed the Red Prince, who was the head of Force 17 and the Black September operative believed by Israel to be the mastermind behind the Munich massacre. This belief has since been challenged by accounts of senior Black September officials, who say that while he was involved in many attacks in Europe, Salameh was not at all connected with the events in Munich. [29]

Almost a full year after Munich, Mossad believed they had finally located Salameh in the small Norwegian town Lillehammer. On July 21, 1973, in what would become known as the Lillehammer affair, a team of Mossad agents shot and killed Ahmed Bouchiki, a Moroccan waiter unrelated to the Munich attack and Black September, after an informant mistakenly identified Bouchiki as Salameh. Six Mossad agents, including two women, were arrested by local police, while others, including the team leader, Michael Harari, managed to escape back to Israel. Five of the captured were convicted of the killing and imprisoned, but were released and returned to Israel in 1975. Victor Ostrovsky claimed that Salameh was instrumental in leading Mossad off course by feeding it false information about his whereabouts. [30]

In January 1974, Mossad agents covertly deployed to Switzerland after receiving information that Salameh would meet PLO leaders in a church on January 12. Two assassins entered the church at the time of the meeting, and encountered three men who appeared to be Arab. One of them made a move for his weapon, and all three were then immediately shot and killed. The Mossad agents continued into the church to search for Salameh, but did not find him. In a short time, the decision was made to abort the mission and escape. [31]

Following the incident, operation commander Michael Harari ordered the mission to kill Salameh be aborted. The kidon team, however, elected to ignore the order and tried one more time to kill Salameh. Intelligence placed Salameh at a house in Tarifa, Spain. As three agents moved toward the house, they were approached by an Arab security guard. The guard raised an AK-47 assault rifle, and was immediately shot. The operation was aborted, and the team escaped to a safe house. [31]

In the aftermath of the Lillehammer affair, international outrage prompted Golda Meir to order the suspension of Operation "Wrath of God". [32] The ensuing Norwegian investigation and revelations by the captured agents compromised Mossad assets across Europe, including safe houses, agents, and operational methods. [33] Five years later, it was decided to recommence the operation under new Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and find those on the list still at large. [34]

Mossad began surveillance of Salameh's movements after tracking him to Beirut during late autumn of 1978. In November 1978, a female Mossad agent identifying herself as Erika Chambers entered Lebanon with a British passport issued in 1975, and rented an apartment on the Rue Verdun, a street frequently used by Salameh. Several other agents arrived, including two using the pseudonyms Peter Scriver and Roland Kolberg, traveling with British and Canadian passports respectively. Some time after their arrival a Volkswagen packed with plastic explosives was parked along Rue Verdun within view of the rented apartment. At 3:35 p.m. on January 22, 1979, as Salameh and four bodyguards drove down the street in a Chevrolet station wagon, [35] the explosives in the Volkswagen were detonated from the apartment with a radio device, killing everyone in the vehicle. After five unsuccessful attempts, [36] Mossad had assassinated Salameh. However, the blast also killed four innocent bystanders, including a British student and a German nun, and injured 18 other people in the vicinity. Immediately following the operation the three Mossad officers fled without trace, as well as up to 14 other agents believed to have been involved in the operation. [36]

Munich hostage-takers

Three of the eight terrorists that carried out the Munich massacre survived the botched German rescue attempt at Fürstenfeldbruck airbase on September 6, 1972 and were taken into German custody: Jamal Al-Gashey, Adnan Al-Gashey, and Mohammed Safady. On October 29, they were released in exchange for the hostages onboard hijacked Lufthansa Flight 615 and travelled to Libya, where they went into hiding. [37]

It had been thought that Adnan Al-Gashey and Mohammed Safady were both assassinated by Mossad several years after the massacre Al-Gashey was found after making contact with a cousin in a Gulf State, and Safady was found by remaining in touch with family in Lebanon. [38] This account was challenged by Aaron J. Klein, who wrote that Adnan died of heart failure in the 1970s and that Safady was killed by Christian Phalangists in Lebanon in the early 1980s. However, in July 2005, PLO veteran Tawfiq Tirawi told Klein that Safady, whom Tirawi claimed as a close friend, was "as alive as you are." [39] Jamal Al-Gashey went into hiding in North Africa, and is believed to be living in Tunisia he last surfaced in 1999, when he granted an interview to director Kevin MacDonald for the documentary One Day in September. [40] [41]

Other actions

Along with direct assassinations, Mossad used a variety of other means to respond to the Munich massacre and deter future terrorist action. Mossad engaged in a campaign of letter bombs against Palestinian officials across Europe. [42] Historian Benny Morris writes that these attacks caused non-fatal injuries to their targets, which included persons in Algeria and Libya, Palestinian student activists in Bonn and Copenhagen, and a Red Crescent official in Stockholm. [5] Klein also cites an incident in Cairo where a bomb malfunctioned, sparing the two Palestinian targets. [43]

Former Mossad katsa Victor Ostrovsky claimed that Mossad also used psychological warfare tactics such as running obituaries of still-living militants and sending highly detailed personal information to others. [42] Reeve further stated that Mossad would call junior Palestinian officials, and after divulging to them their personal information, would warn them to disassociate from any Palestinian cause. [44]

Other assassinations

Several assassinations or assassination attempts have been attributed to the "Wrath of God" campaign, although doubt exists as to whether Mossad was behind them, with breakaway Palestinian factions being suspected of carrying them out. The first such assassination occurred on January 4, 1978, when Said Hammami, the PLO representative in London, was shot and killed. The assassination is suspected of being the work of either Mossad or the Abu Nidal Organization. [45] On August 3, 1978, Ezzedine Kalak, chief of the PLO's Paris bureau, and his deputy Hamad Adnan, were killed at their offices in the Arab League building. Three other members of the Arab League and PLO staff were wounded. [26] This attack was either the work of Mossad or the Abu Nidal Organization. On July 27, 1979. Zuheir Mohsen, head of PLO military operations, was gunned down in Cannes, France, just after leaving a casino. Responsibility for the attack has been placed by various sources on Mossad, other Palestinians, and possibly Egypt. [46]

On June 1, 1981, Naim Khader, the PLO representative in Belgium, was assassinated in Brussels. Officials at the PLO information and liaison office in Brussels issued a statement accusing Israel of being behind the killing. [26] Abu Daoud, a Black September commander who openly claimed to have helped plan the Munich attack, was shot multiple times on August 1, 1981 by a gunman in a Warsaw hotel cafe. Daoud survived the attack. [47] It is unclear whether this was done by Mossad or another breakaway Palestinian faction. [48] Daoud claimed that the attack was carried out by a Palestinian double agent for Mossad, who was killed by the PLO ten years later. On March 1, 1982, PLO official Nabil Wadi Aranki was killed in Madrid. [26] On June 8, 1992 PLO head of intelligence Atef Bseiso was shot and killed in Paris by two gunmen with suppressed weapons. While the PLO and a book by Israeli author Aaron Klein blamed Mossad for the killing, other reports indicate that the Abu Nidal Organization was behind it. [49] [50]

Black September response

Black September did attempt and carry out a number of attacks and hostage takings against Israel.

Similar to the Mossad letter-bomb campaign, dozens of letter bombs were sent from Amsterdam to Israeli diplomatic posts around the world in September and October 1972. One such attack killed Ami Shachori, an Israeli Agricultural Counselor in Britain. [51]

Attempted assassination of Golda Meir in Rome

A terrorist operation was planned by Black September when it learned that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would be travelling to Rome to meet with Pope Paul VI in January 1973. The planned visit was placed under a regimen of strict secrecy in Israel, and news of the upcoming visit was probably leaked by a pro-Palestinian priest in the Vatican Secretariat of State. Black September commander Ali Hassan Salameh began planning a missile attack against Meir's plane as it arrived in Rome. Salameh's goal was to kill not only Meir, but also key cabinet ministers and senior Mossad officers accompanying her. At the time, Salameh was negotiating with the Soviet Union, asking for safe haven, and he hoped that by the time Israel recovered from this blow, he and his men would be in the Soviet Union and out of Israel's reach. Black September smuggled several shoulder-launched Strela 2 missiles to Bari, Italy, from Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, by boat. The missiles were then smuggled to Rome and positioned around Fiumicino Airport shortly before Meir's arrival. To divert Mossad's vigilance away from Rome in the run-up to the attack, Salameh planned a terrorist attack on the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. [52]

On December 28, 1972, four Black September members took over the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, holding 12 hostages. They raised the PLO flag over the building, and threatened to kill the hostages unless 36 PLO prisoners were released. The building was surrounded by Thai troops and police. The option of a rescue operation was considered in Israel but ruled out. A rescue operation was considered a logistical impossibility, and it was also thought that as the embassy was in busy central Bangkok, the Thai government would never allow the possibility of a shootout to occur. Though their demands were not met, negotiations secured the release of all the hostages and the Black September militants were given safe passage to Cairo. [53]

Mossad found out about the plan to assassinate Golda Meir on January 14, 1973, when a local volunteer informed Mossad that he had handled two telephone calls from a payphone in an apartment block where PLO members sometimes stayed. The calls were in Arabic, which he spoke. Speaking in code, the caller stated that it was "time to deliver the birthday candles for the celebration". Mossad Director-General Zvi Zamir was convinced that this was a coded order connected to an upcoming attack. Zamir had been convinced that the Bangkok embassy raid was a diversion for a larger attack, due to the participants in the raid having so easily given up, something he did not expect from a group as well-trained, financed, strategically cunning, and motivated as Black September. Zamir further interpreted that "birthday candles" could refer to weapons, and the most likely one with a candle connotation was a rocket. Zamir linked the possible upcoming missile attack with Meir's upcoming arrival, and guessed that Black September was planning to shoot down Meir's plane. Zamir then sent a Mossad katsa, or field intelligence officer, to Rome, and travelled to the city with a team of Mossad officers. Zamir met with the head of DIGOS, the Italian anti-terrorism unit, and laid out his concerns. DIGOS officers raided the apartment blocks from where the calls had been made, and found a Russian instruction manual for launching missiles. Throughout the night, DIGOS teams, each accompanied by a Mossad katsa, raided known PLO apartments, but found no evidence of any plot to kill Meir. In the morning, a few hours before Meir's plane arrived, Mossad agents and Italian police surrounded Fiumicino Airport. [54]

A Mossad katsa spotted a Fiat van parked in a field close to the flight path. The agent ordered the driver to step out. The back door then flew open, and two militants opened fire. The agent returned fire, severely wounding both of them. The van was found to contain six missiles. The driver escaped on foot, and was pursued by the agent. He was captured as he tried to hijack a car driven by another patrolling Mossad operative. The driver was bundled into the car and taken to the truck that served as Mossad's mobile command post, where he revealed the whereabouts of the second missile team after being severely beaten. The truck then sped off, heading north. A cafe-van with three missile launchers protruding from the roof was spotted. The truck then rammed the van, turning it over, trapping the launch team inside and half-crushing them beneath the weight of the missiles, and turning the van's fixed launchers away from the sky. The unconscious driver was pulled from the van and tossed to the side of the road, and DIGOS was alerted that there had been "an interesting accident they should look into". Zamir briefly considered killing the Palestinian terrorists, but felt that their deaths would serve as an embarrassment to Golda Meir's audience with the pope. The terrorists, who had been involved in the Munich massacre, were taken to the hospital and eventually allowed to fly to Libya, but within months, all were killed by Mossad. [55] [56]

Assassinations of other Israelis and international officials

Two Israelis suspected of being intelligence agents were shot and killed, as well as an Israeli official in Washington. Baruch Cohen, a Mossad agent in Madrid, was killed on January 23, 1973 by a young Palestinian contact. [21] Mossad then conducted a side operation to locate and kill Cohen's assassins, and at least three Palestinians involved in planning and carrying out Cohen's killing were assassinated. [57] Vittorio Olivares, an Italian El Al employee suspected by Black September, was shot and killed in Rome in April 1973. [58] The Israeli military attaché to the United States, Colonel Yosef Alon, was assassinated on July 1, 1973 in Chevy Chase, Maryland. [59] [60] Alon's killer was never officially identified, and the FBI closed its investigation after failing to identify the culprits, but theorized that Black September was behind the assassination. Fred Burton, former deputy chief of the counterterrorism division of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and Vice-President of the private intelligence and consulting firm Stratfor, conducted an investigation and concluded that Alon's killer was a Black September operative who was killed by Mossad in 2011. [61] Ami Shachori, an agriculture counselor working at the Israeli Embassy in London, was assassinated by Black September on September 19, 1973. [62]

Black September conducted several other attacks only indirectly against Israel, including the seizure of Western diplomats in the Saudi embassy in Khartoum (see: 1973 Khartoum diplomatic assassinations), but the group was officially dissolved by al-Fatah in December 1974. [63]

Arab reaction

While the first wave of assassinations from October 1972 to early 1973 caused greater consternation among Palestinian officials, it was the raid on Lebanon – Operation Spring of Youth in April 1973 – that truly shocked the Arab world. [64] The audacity of the mission, plus the fact that senior leaders such as Yasser Arafat, Abu Iyad and Ali Hassan Salameh were only yards away from the fighting, contributed to the creation of the belief that Israel was capable of striking anywhere, anytime. [65] It also brought about popular mourning. At the funerals for the victims of the raid, half a million people came into the streets of Beirut. [65] Nearly six years later, 100,000 people, including Arafat, turned out in the same city to bury Salameh. [66]

The operation also caused some of the less radical Arab governments to begin putting pressure on Palestinians to stop attacks against Israeli targets and threatened to pull support for the Palestinians if they used their passports during the course of attacks against Israel. As a result, some Palestinian militants began to instead use forged Israeli documents. [67]

In his 2005 book Striking Back, author Aaron Klein – who says he based his book in large part on rare interviews with key Mossad officers involved in the reprisal missions – contends that Mossad got only one man directly connected to the massacre. The man, Atef Bseiso, was killed in Paris in 1992. Klein goes on to say that the intelligence on Wael Zwaiter, the first Palestinian to die, was "uncorroborated and improperly cross-referenced. Looking back, his assassination was a mistake." He elaborates, stating that the real planners and executors of Munich had gone into hiding along with bodyguards in the Eastern Bloc and Arab world, where Israel could not reach them. Most of those killed were minor Palestinian figures who happened to be wandering unprotected around Western Europe. "Israeli security officials claimed these dead men were responsible for Munich PLO pronouncements made them out to be important figures and so the image of Mossad as capable of delivering death at will grew and grew." The operation functioned not just to punish the perpetrators of Munich but also to disrupt and deter future terrorist acts, writes Klein. "For the second goal, one dead PLO operative was as good as another." Klein quotes a senior intelligence source: "Our blood was boiling. When there was information implicating someone, we didn't inspect it with a magnifying glass." [39]

Abu Daoud, one of the main planners of the Munich massacre, said in interviews before the release of the movie Munich that "I returned to Ramallah in 1995, and Israel knew that I was the planner of the Munich operation." [68] The leader of Black September, Abu Iyad, was also not killed by Israel, although he was assassinated in 1991 in Tunis by the Abu Nidal Organization. [69] Former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir has countered this in an interview in 2006, when he said that Israel was more interested in striking the "infrastructure of the terrorist organizations in Europe" than those directly responsible for Munich. "We had no choice but to start with preventive measures." [70]

As the campaign continued, relatives of the athletes killed at Munich were kept informed. Simon Reeve writes that some felt vindicated, while others, including the wife of fencer Andre Spitzer, felt ambivalent. [71] The wife of assassinated Mossad agent Baruch Cohen called the operation, especially a side operation directed against those who had murdered her husband, sickening. [71]

According to Ronen Bergman (security correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth and expert on Mossad): "This campaign stopped most PLO terrorism outside the borders of Israel. Did it help in any way to bring peace to the Middle East? No. Strategically it was a complete failure." [7]

Former katsa Victor Ostrovsky has said that the direction Meir set Mossad on, namely that of focusing heavily on the people and operations of the PLO, took energy away from intelligence gathering on Israel's neighbors. [72] This led Mossad to miss the warning signs of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which caught Israeli defenses by surprise.

The 1984 book Vengeance, by Canadian journalist George Jonas, tells the story of an Israeli assassination squad from the viewpoint of a self-described former Mossad agent and leader of the squad, Avner. Avner has since been claimed to be a pseudonym for Yuval Aviv, an Israeli who now runs a private investigation agency in New York. However, Jonas denies that Aviv was his source for Vengeance, although the book has not been independently verified beyond the fact checking Jonas says he has done. [73] Jonas points to a former Director General of the RCMP Security Service, John Starnes, who he says believes his source's essential story. [73] In spite of this, Mossad's director at the time of the operation, Zvi Zamir, has stated that he never knew Aviv. [74] Several former Mossad officers who took part in Operation "Wrath of God" have also told British journalists that Yuval Aviv's version of events is not accurate. [75] After its 1984 publication the book was listed on the fiction and non-fiction bestseller lists in Britain. [73]

Since its release, two films have been based on Vengeance. In 1986, Michael Anderson directed the HBO film Sword of Gideon. Steven Spielberg released a second movie based on the account in December 2005 entitled Munich. Both movies use Yuval Aviv's pseudonym "Avner" and take a certain amount of artistic license with his account.