It was a Tuesday morning in September, a cloudless, beautiful day, and the world watched one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks of all time unfold before its eyes. The city was Munich. The year was 1972. The Olympic Games were being broadcast live as eight Palestinians from Black September, the most violent wing of the PLO, murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.
The Israeli response to that attack is being studied now by the CIA. Bob Simon reports.
The Israelis tracked down and killed the terrorists, and some of their friends as well. It was an eye for an eye. Now that President Bush has told the CIA to take its gloves off, the Israeli tactics have become an object lesson in Washington. The Israelis conducted the most daring assassination campaign of our time.
The Palestinians came to the Olympics and changed the rules of the game. They stormed the Israeli compound, killed two Israelis there and murdered nine more a few hours later at a military airfield outside Munich. The day after the massacre, Ankie Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer, flew to Munich and went to the Olympic village to see where her husband had spent his last hours.
"I said, somebody has to pay a price," she says. "Because it cannot be that people can terrorize other people and kill them. And there is no price to be paid."
But who would exact the price, and how? Prime Minister Golda Meir called in Zvi Zamir, the chief of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service. He has never spoken about this publicly.
"Golda wanted very much, that the people will be brought to trial. But she realized that this is impossible," says Zamir.
Zamir asked Meir for a license to kill. The prime minister told Zamir to draw up a list of targets: One didn't have to be involved in Munich or even be a member of Black September to make the cut. The objective was to wipe out the entire terrorist network in Europe. Many of the targets were in sleeper cells.
"This is not a simple thing," says Zamir. "In order to do this, you have to collect information in European states which is not a legal thing to do."
It is not only illegal but delicate and dangerous. On Oc. 16, 1972, Wael Zwaiter, was walking home to this apartment building in Rome. Officially, he was a translator at the Libyan Embassy. To the Israelis, he was a terrorist and a target. As Zwaiter reached this doorway, two men came out of the shadows and shot him 12 times. The killers were never found. Back in Israel, Ankie Spitzer got a phone call.
"I have no idea who called me," she says. "They just said, 'Why don't you listen to the 10 o'clock news this morning?' Okay, I listened. And then I heard. So this was probably a sign, or an indication for me to understand that they were not sitting still."
Paris was the next stop. Dr. Mahmoud Hamshari, the head of Black September in France, the Israelis believed, received a phone call in his apartment. The Mossad was calling. When he picked up the pone, a bomb exploded. It was Dr. Hamsharis last call.
What was the message the Mossad wanted to send? "That we shall reach them," says Zamir. "And each one of them will be responsible for his own crime."
Other suspected terrorists started dropping. In Cyprus. In Athens. The murders had the markings of Mossad hits, but no one could prove it. The victims had all been junior officers in the PLO. Bigger and tougher targets lay ahead.
They focused next on Beirut, which was the center of terrorist activity. The PLO virtually ran the city. Their leaders were heavily guarded.
It took an Israeli speedboat seven hours to reach the coastline off Beirut. Just after midnight on April 10, 1973, 16 commandos slipped ashore here for an operation code named Spring of Youth. It was the most audacious attack the Israelis had ever planned. The mission: To kill three of the PLO's top leaders in their homes downtown. Three cars were waiting for the Israelis on the beach road. The keys were in the ignition, the engines were running. Leading the attack were two women: a blonde and a brunette.
The brunette was Ehud Barak, Israel's future prime minister. At that time, he was commander of the nations special forces.
"We decided maybe some of us will go like women. It will reduce the suspicions," Barak recalled recently. "We put everything in place. A wig, and a breast, and everything. And I had my lieutenant Muki Betser, he was kind of a half a head taller than me. And we were a couple."
The couples first date was with a PLO guard in front of the building that was their prime target. Barak shot him with a silencer. Commandos crept up the stairs to the apartment of Kamal Adwan, the PLO's chief of operations. The civilian disguises turned out to be a good idea.
"The moment that they opened the door, the terrorist was there with his Kalashnikov and an AK-47 in his hands," says Barak. "And it was only the split second of hesitation of the terrorist when he see that it's civilian people that, that ended up our officer shoot the terrorist and not the other way around."
Kamal Adwan's young daughter Dana was 5 when the Israelis stormed their apartment and shot Adwan 55 times.
"Glass was being shattered on our heads," she remembered. "And he just fell. And his face was somehow turned like that. And I was telling my brother, 'Theyre playing cowboys and Indians here.'"
When the smoke had cleared, three PLO leaders were dead in their homes. The Israelis returned to the beach and their boats. It had taken them 30 minutes. If Beirut wasnt safe, the PLO now knew no place was safe.
"This is a very, very important step because they are on the run," says Zamir. "They know that even if it, it will take time, but eventually he will be spotted and he will be punished. They know it well."
More hits followed. Twelve men were dead, but still on the run, at the top of the Mossads hit list, was Yasser Arafat's favorite yong protégé, Ali Hassan Salameh. He was known as the Red Prince, and the Israelis believed he was the man behind the Munich massacre. He was well protected.
In 1973, the Mossad believed it had tracked its man to a tranquil Norwegian town called Lillehammer. One evening, the Mossad watched him board a bus with a pregnant Norwegian woman. As they got off at this bus stop, two Israeli agents jumped out of a car and fired 14 bullets. The Red Prince was dead. Munich had been avenged. But there would be no getaway this time. Norwegian police noted the license plate of the hit team's car, traced it to this safe house in Oslo and arrested six Israeli agents. And not only were members of the hit team behind bars, they had killed the wrong man.
The Israelis had killed a Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchiki. He and his wife were expecting their first child in two months.
Nevertheless, the operation continued. "This may happen in this sort of activity. Our operation stopped when it stopped," says Zamir.
It couldnt stop then because the Red Prince, Ali Hassan Salameh, was not only alive, he was defiantly reminding the Israelis of it all the time. In 1974, he arrived in New York, at the United Nations, walking right behind Yassar Arafat. The Israelis had a problem getting to him, which they didnt even know about back then.
During the 70s, a CIA agent often met the Red Prince in Beirut. In exchange for a dialogue with the U.S., which Salameh wanted, he offered to protect Americans in Lebanon, which he did. The CIA knew he had the blood of Munich on his hands.
Certain things go unsaid. I mean, he knew that I knew who he was, what he had done, so on and so forth. So why bring it up? says Sam Wyman, the agent who met with the Red Prince in Beirut.
Salameh didn't act like a man on the run. He married Miss Universe, then spent his honeymoon in Hawaii and Disney World. But Wyman understood the Red Princes days might be numbered. He knew the Israelis have long memories.
"Had you asked me at the time I would have said it's only a matter of time before they try to get him," says Wyman, who believes that Salameh knew that he was a target.
The Red Prince was living the good life in Lebanon. Beirut was a cosmopolitan city, so no one found it strange when an eccentric Englishwoman named Erika Chambers rented an apartment around the corner from his place and spent hours at her window painting street scenes. On Jan. 22, 1979, the Red Prince was on his way to his mother's for a birthday party. As he drove past a Volkswagen parked on the street, Miss Chambers gave a signal from her terrace. The Red Prince never made it to the party.
Ali Hassan Salameh was blown up in his station wagon, an operation guided by the eyes of Mossad agent Erika Chambers. With the demise of the Red Prince, Israel's campaign of retribution was over. Mossad had succeeded in destroying the Palestinian terrorist network in Europe.
l Qaeda is there now. They're not terrorizing Israelis, but Americans. The Israelis are telling the CIA to study how they did it almost 30 years ago. Says Barak: "What the hell is wrong about hitting someone who, who did not hesitate to use hijacked planes with 150 tons of fuel, as a living cruise missile to kill 5,000 people?"
"They're not waiting there for a prison. It's not a police. It's a war. You cannot in a war, you cannot go and just arrest all the soldiers so to speak, of the enemy."
President Bush recently signed an intelligence finding that could open the door to an American assassination campaign. Former CIA operative Sam Wyman believes this method should only be used as a last resort.
But he recognizes the reality as well: "I think the President realizes or accepted or wasyou can't do this at a tea party. It could get messy; it could get dirty."
The Israelis may be helping, Wyman says: "There's probably been some sharing of, of information about how it was done. I'm sure it will probably be studied. I would be surprised if the CIA did not consult with the Israelis about 'If you wanted to do an operation in "X" city, what would you do and how would you do it?'"
Zafir believes the world will come around to his way of thinking. He's convinced that there is no other way: "We have no alternative. This is the coming war. Its here."
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