- Israeli death squads have been authorised to enter "friendly"
countries and assassinate opponents in a move that raises the prospect
of political killings in Australia.
- Agents of the Israeli secret service Mossad have been
given free rein to kill those deemed to be a threat to the Jewish state
- wherever they are hiding.
- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who has until now refused
permission for assassinations on the home ground of allies, has reversed
the policy as part of a more aggressive approach to terrorism.
- The move was revealed by former Mossad agents in a series
of interviews with US news agency United Press International. It was later
confirmed by US intelligence officials.
- They said the policy raised the potential for killings
in countries with close ties to Israel, including the US, Britain and Australia.
- One Mossad official told UPI the policy shift was prompted
by "a huge budget" increase for the agency as part of "a
tougher stance in fighting global jihad (or holy war)".
- "Targeted killings" have, in the main, been
restricted to the West Bank and Gaza because "no one wanted such operations
on their territory", one Israeli official said.
- But that is changing with the appointment late last year
of new Mossad director Meir Dagan.
- Another former Mossad agent told UPI: "Diplomatic
constraints have prevented Mossad from carrying out preventive operations
(assassinations) on the soil of friendly countries until now."
- Mr Sharon and Mr Dagan were now "reversing that
policy, even if it risks complications to Israel's bilateral relations".
- A third source said Mr Sharon wanted "greater operational
maneuverability" for Mossad.
- Asked if that meant assassinations within allied countries,
he said: "It does."
- The move comes in the wake of the assassination by the
CIA of al-Qaeda suspects in Yemen.
- Qaed Sinan Harithi and five other suspects were killed
last year when a unmanned Predator spy plane fired a Hellfire missile at
- That attack is thought to have limited the ability of
the US to protest about Mossad killings abroad.
- "That (the Predator attack) was done on the soil
of a friendly ally," an official at the US Congress said. "I
don't know on what basis we would be able to protest Israel's actions."
- Israel has in the past sent hit squads to kill opponents
in hostile countries such as Lebanon, and snatch squads have been used
extensively throughout the world.
- Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina
in 1960, taken to Israel and executed.
- In 1986, scientist Mordechai Vanunu was snatched in Rome
and transported to Israel after revealing details of Israel's nuclear weapons
program. He was sentenced to 18 years jail, only being released from solitary
confinement in 1998.
- One of the few known cases of Mossad hitmen carrying
out an assassination on friendly soil occurred on July 21, 1973, when a
Mossad team shot dead Moroccan waiter Ahmed Bouchikhi as he walked home
from the cinema with his pregnant wife in the Norwegian ski resort of Lillehammer.
- The assassins apparently mistook Bouchikhi for Hassan
Salameh, a PLO intelligence chief suspected of masterminding the killing
of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
- Gullow Gjeseth, who led a Norwegian Government inquiry
into the shooting, said: "This was much more than a murder. This was
a violation of Norwegian sovereignty."
- In January 1996, Israel paid undisclosed damages to Bouchikhi's
family, but refused to admit responsibility for the killing.
- Mossad is thought to have struck again in October 1995,
when the head of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, Fathi al-Shikai,
was gunned down on the streets of Malta. The hit, though never formally
claimed, had all the trademarks of the agency.
- A return to such killings is expected to raise concerns
among Israel's Western allies.
- The assassinations are likely to be carried out by a
unit of Mossad's secret Metsada department called the Kidon, a Hebrew word
- The agents will have to answer to Mr Dagan, who has been
described by a CIA agent as having a "real killer instinct".
- Officially, Israel has refused to confirm or deny the
- Kim Farber, a diplomat at the Israeli Embassy in Washington,
told UPI: "There is so little information available on this, there
is nothing I can add."
- A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer yesterday
refused to comment on the possibility of Mossad agents operating in Australia.