Israel confirms killing Arafat deputy in 1988

By Aron Heller

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1 2012 10:03 p.m. MDT

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 al-Wazir reaching for a weapon, he shot and killed him.

Other participants then "verified the kill" by shooting the body several more times before the forces retreated to sea and back to Israel, the Yediot report said.

"I felt bad about the gardener," Lev told Yediot. "But in an operation such as this you have to make sure that any potential resistance is neutralized."

The Palestinians have long accused Israel of being behind the assassination.

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."

Zaki said the Palestinians hope their bid to gain upgraded observer status at the United Nations next month will enable them to join the International Criminal Court where they can "pursue Israel for its crimes against our people."

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

On the surface, Wazir was a quiet, soft spoken figure in an organization replete with flamboyant characters. He eschewed the high-living that tainted some PLO figures during the organization's years in Beirut, with its night clubs and cafes. That enabled him to maintain the respect of all the factions within the often deeply divided PLO.

But behind the mild, non-threatening facade was a man capable of using brutality and bloodshed to advance the cause of Palestinian independence. He was largely responsible for organizing PLO underground cells within the West Bank and Gaza. He maintained close ties to Soviet Bloc countries that were a source of weapons and political support, even as Arafat himself was reaching out to the West.

Al-Wazir had long been wanted in a series of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians. Among them, he masterminded a 1975 hostage taking at a Tel Aviv hotel in which 11 Israelis were killed, and a 1978 attack on an Israeli bus that killed 38 Israelis.

At the time of his death, he was a main organizer of the first Palestinian uprising against Israel, which began in December 1987, four months before he was killed.

Israel has carried out similar assassination operations in the past, including the killing of top leaders of Black September, the Palestinian group that carried out the massacre of 11 members of the Israeli delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It is also suspected of a series of other plots it has never confirmed or denied.

Among the most prominent:

— In 1995, the founder of the Islamic Jihad group Fathi Shikaki was gunned down in Malta by a man on a motorcycle in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

— In 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, a top commander in the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, was killed by a bomb that ripped through his car in Damascus, Syria. Hezbollah and its primary patron, Iran, have blamed Israel for the killing.

— In 2010, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top Hamas operative, was killed in a Dubai hotel room in an operation attributed to Israel's Mossad.

Iran also blames Israel for covert plots against its nuclear program and the killing of top scientists. In turn, Iran and Hezbollah have been blamed for various attacks on Israelis abroad.

Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, and Robert H. Reid in Berlin contributed to this report.

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