Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat says the United States gave Israeli agents "a green light" to assassinate the PLO's No. 2 man in a bloody commando raid.
Arafat vowed Sunday that the Palestinian uprising in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank would continue despite the assassination a day earlier of Khalil Al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad, or Father of War.Arafat said Al-Wazir's slaying, which set off some of the worst rioting yet in the Israeli-occupied territories, was carried out by Israeli agents with the approval of the United States.
"The decision was an Israeli decision, taken at the highest levels of the Israeli leadership, with a green light from the American administration," Arafat said of the assassination of his childhood friend and the PLO's second in command.
"He was martyred while carrying out his duty, weapons in hand. He resisted until he was outnumbered by the Israeli Mossad gang, and his body was riddled with tens of bullets," said the PLO chief, who arrived in Tunis Saturday after the assassination.
Israel has declined comment on the assassination of Al-Wazir, said to have been responsible for turning the Palestinian demonstrations that first erupted in December in the West Bank and Gaza Strip into a semi-permanent challenge to the 20-year-old Israeli occupation.
NBC News reported Sunday that armed forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron helped plan the mission, and said that Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir sent a congratulatory cable to the troops who carried it out.
The network said Shamir was "overjoyed" there were no Israeli casualties and quoted him as telling Shomron: "This shows Israel can still strike far and fast."
Gunmen firing submachine guns and silencer-equipped pistols burst into the suburban villa of Al-Wazir, 52, between 1:15 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. Saturday, pumping scores of bullets into him after slaying three bodyguards.
Police investigating the assassination said Sunday the gunmen apparently spent two days in Tunisia preparing for the attack on Al-Wazir's villa in the Tunisian capital's tranquil northern suburb of Sidi Bou Said.
In an interview with a Tunisian newspaper published Sunday, Al-Wazir's wife, Umm Jihad, said she also expected to die in the assault.
"We were in the bedroom. My husband heard an unusual noise at the gate of the villa," she told the semi-official newspaper Houria, or Liberty. "He took his revolver, and I ran out behind him shouting, `What's happening?' "He didn't reply. He stood in the corner of the first-floor landing of the villa. I was at the other end.
"The first (gunman) fired a volley of shots, the second fired another, the third still another," she said. "I turned my face to the wall. I expected them to kill me too. But they didn't.