The identity and photograph of the Israeli soldier who killed Khalil al-Wazir – Abu Jihad – in 1987 have been published by Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Nahum Lev led the assassination squad which actually killed Abu Jihad in Tunisia. Lev himself was killed in a road accident in 2000.
Abu Jihad was Yasser Arafat’s number two in the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The PLO has called for the prosecution of those who gave the order for the murder.
Permission for the details to be published was given by Israel’s military censor. According to Journalist Ronan Bergman, it took 18 months of negotiations before permission was finally given. The operation was carried out by Mossad’s Caesarea Unit in collaboration with the Israel Defence Forces.
The operation involved 26 people, who were divided into groups once they had landed in Tunisia. Lev was in charge of a group of eight assigned to storm Abu Jihad’s house. Two guards and a gardener were killed before the team shot Abu Jihad in front of his wife.
Lev said that prior to the operation he read the file on Abu Jihad thoroughly. “He was associated with terrible acts against civilians,” he told Bergman in before his death. “He was already sentenced to death so I shot him without hesitation.”
Khalil Al-Wazir’s son, Jihad, currently heads the Palestinian Central Bank. He declined to comment on the latest revelations.
PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khalid, however, said that by revealing the identity of Al Wazir’s assassin, Israel had confirmed that it has no red lines, and it does not affect any future plans it may have for assassinating more Palestinian leaders. He called for the prosecution of the person who gave the order for the operation, given that the man who pulled the trigger is already dead.
Khalid also noted that Israel has committed many crimes against Palestinian leaders. He mentioned the 1973 Fardan operation in which three senior Palestinians – Kamal Odwan, Kamal Nasser and Abu Seif El Naggar – were killed in Beirut. The operation, Khaled added pointedly, was led by Ehud Barack, Israel’s current defence minister.