Israel Planned to Kill Arafat by Blowing Up Lebanese Stadium, Report Says

Clandestine unit headed by future Mossad chief Meir Dagan is said to have planned to kill PLO leadership with massive blast in 1982. Plot was nixed at the last minute by PM Menachem Begin

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Palestinian Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat waves good-bye from his car 20 December 1983, Tripoli, Lebanon
Palestinian Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat waves good-bye from his car 20 December 1983, Tripoli, LebanonCredit: AFP

Israel had a covert plan in the early 1980s to assassinate Yasser Arafat and the rest of the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership by blowing up a Beirut stadium in a massive explosion, according to a report published Thursday in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

If the plot, planned for January of 1982, had been carried out, agents working on behalf of Israel were to have placed enough explosives under and around the stadium to cause damage that, according to a senior military officer at the time, would have been “unprecedented, even in terms of Lebanon.”

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Few knew of the plan, the report said, with the actions of a clandestine unit carrying out guerrilla operations and assassinations being kept secret from much of the military general staff and intelligence corps.

The impetus for the plot, according to the newspaper, was the 1979 attack on Israeli civilians by Samir Kuntar.

Kuntar was imprisoned in 1979 in Israel and sentenced to three life terms after he and three other Lebanese residents infiltrated the country from southern Lebanon and staged an attack in the northern coastal town of Nahariya, killing a police officer and then kidnapping a man, Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter and killing them outside their home.

Israel says that Kuntar, who was 16 at the time, beat the girl to death by bashing her head with a rifle butt. He has continued to deny this, saying the girl was killed in crossfire during a shootout with police. As the attack unfolded, the girl’s mother, Smadar Haran, hid inside a crawl space inside their home and accidentally smothered their crying 2-year-old daughter to death, fearing Kuntar would find them.

The military chief of staff at the time, Rafael Eitan, made it clear afterward that any PLO figures in Lebanon were fair game, according to the report.

The plan was halted at the last minute, with then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin calling it off hours before it was to be carried out, said the newspaper.

Additional details, including the testimony of the secret unit's commander, Meir Dagan, who went on to be the head of the Mossad, are set to be published by Yedioth on Friday.

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