kill on U.S., allies'' soil
By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent
From the Washington
Politics & Policy Desk
Israel is embarking upon a more aggressive approach to the
war on terror that will include staging targeted killings in
the United States and other friendly countries, former Israeli
intelligence officials told United Press International.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has forbidden the
practice until now, these sources said, speaking on condition
The Israeli statements were confirmed by more than a half
dozen U.S. foreign policy and intelligence officials in
interviews with UPI.
With the appointment of Meir Dagan, the new director
Israel's Mossad secret intelligence service, Sharon is also
preparing "a huge budget" increase for the spy agency as part
of "a tougher stance in fighting global jihad (or holy war),"
one Israeli official said.
Since Sharon became Israeli prime minister, Tel Aviv has
mainly limited its practice of targeted killings to the West
Bank and Gaza because "no one wanted such operations on their
territory," a former Israeli intelligence official said.
Another former Israeli government official said that under
Sharon, "diplomatic constraints have prevented the Mossad from
carrying out 'preventive operations' (targeted killings) on
the soil of friendly countries until now."
He said Sharon is "reversing that policy, even if it risks
complications to Israel's bilateral relations."
A former Israeli military intelligence source agreed: "What
Sharon wants is a much more extensive and tough approach to
global terrorism, and this includes greater operational
Does this mean assassinations on the soil of allies?
"It does," he said.
"Mossad is definitely being beefed up," a U.S. government
official said of the Israeli agency's budget increase. He
declined to comment on the Tel Aviv's geographic expansion of
An FBI spokesman also declined to comment, saying: "This is
a policy matter. We only enforce federal laws."
A congressional staff member with deep knowledge of
intelligence matters said, "I don't know on what basis we
would be able to protest Israel's actions." He referred to the
recent killing of Qaed Salim Sinan al Harethi, a top al Qaida
leader, in Yemen by a remotely controlled CIA drone.
"That was done on the soil of a friendly ally," the staffer
But the complications posed by Israel's new policy are
"Israel does not have a good record at doing this sort of
thing," said former CIA counter-terrorism official Larry
He cited the 1997 fiasco where two Mossad agents were
captured after they tried to assassinate Khaled Mashaal, a
Hamas political leader, by injecting him with poison.
According to Johnson, the attempt, made in Amman, Jordan,
caused a political crisis in Israeli-Jordan relations. In
addition, because the Israeli agents carried Canadian
passports, Canada withdrew its ambassador in protest, he said.
Jordan is one of two Arab nations to recognize Israel. The
other is Egypt.
At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
said, "I have no intention of stopping the activities of this
government against terror," according to a CNN report.
Former CIA officials say Israel was forced to free jailed
Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and 70 other Jordanian and
Palestinian prisoner being held in Israeli jails to secure the
release of the two would-be Mossad assassins.
Phil Stoddard, former director of the Middle East
Institute, cited a botched plot to kill Ali Hassan Salemeh,
the mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre. The 1974
attempt severely embarrassed Mossad when the Israeli hit team
mistakenly assassinated a Moroccan waiter in Lillehammer,
Salemeh, later a CIA asset, was killed in Beirut, Lebanon,
in 1976 by a car bomb placed by an Israeli assassination team,
former U.S. intelligence officials said.
"Israel knew Salemeh was providing us with preventive
intelligence on the Palestinians and his being killed pissed
off a lot of people," said a former senior CIA official.
But some Israeli operations have been successful.
Gerald Bull, an Ontario-born U.S. citizen and designer of
the Iraqi supergun -- a massive artillery system capable of
launching satellites into orbit, and of delivering nuclear
chemical or biological payloads from Baghdad to Israel -- was
killed in Belgium in March 1990. The killing is still
unsolved, but former CIA officials said a Mossad hit team is
the most likely suspect.
Bull worked on the supergun design -- codenamed Project
Babylon -- for 10 years, and helped the Iraqis develop many
smaller artillery systems. He was found with five bullets in
his head outside his Brussels apartment.
Israeli hit teams, which consist of units or squadrons of
the Kidon, a sub-unit for Mossad's highly secret Metsada
department, would stage the operations, former Israeli
intelligence sources said. Kidon is a Hebrew word meaning
"bayonet," one former Israeli intelligence source said.
This Israeli government source explained that in the past
Israel has not staged targeted killings in friendly countries
because "no one wanted such operations on their
This has become irrelevant, he said.
Dagan, the new hard-driving director of Mossad, will
implement the new changes, former Israeli government officials
Dagan, nicknamed "the gun," was Sharon's adviser on
counter-terrorism during the government of Netanyahu in 1996,
former Israeli government officials say. A former military
man, Dagan has also undertaken extremely sensitive diplomatic
missions for several of Israel's prime ministers, former
Israeli government sources said.
Former Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Gal Luft, who served
under Dagan, described him as an "extremely creative
individual -- creative to the point of recklessness."
A former CIA official who knows Dagan said the new Mossad
director knows "his foreign affairs inside and out," and has a
"real killer instinct."
Dagan is also "an intelligence natural" who has "a superb
analyst not afraid to act on gut instinct," the former CIA
Dagan has already removed Mossad officials whom he regards
as "being too conservative or too cautious" and is building up
"a constituency of senior people of the same mentality," one
former long-time Israeli operative said.
Dagan is also urging that Mossad operatives rely less on
secret sources and rely more on open information that is so
plentifully provided on the Internet and newspapers.
"It's a cultural thing," one former Israeli intelligence
operative explained. "Mossad in the past has put its emphasis
on Humint (human intelligence) and secret operations and has
neglected the whole field of open media, which has become
Regarding Mossad's new policy and budget increase, Kim
Farber an Israeli Embassy official said, "There is so little
information available on this, there is nothing I can add."
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