Revealed: Israeli Order to Shoot Down Arafat's Plane Over the Saudi Desert

'If it is confirmed Arafat is on board, the plane is to be shot down,' handwritten note from Israel Defense Force chief said in 1981

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sits with a group of refugees in a camp outside Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 15, 1977. The children are showing him one of their AK-47 assault rifles.

When Ariel Sharon was Israel's defense minister he ordered the Israeli army to shoot down a passenger plane if it was confirmed that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was on board. Now, the Israeli author of the report has revealed the handwritten notes greenlighting the Israel Defense Force to shoot down a civilian airplane carrying the Palestinian leader.

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A note from the chief of the Israel Defense Forces ordering that a civilian plane carrying Yasser Arafat be shot down.
Courtesy of David Ivry

The handwritten note was supplied by Rafael Eitan, then the IDF chief of the staff, to the head of the Israeli air force at the time, David Ivry, and were presented Monday by Ronen Bergman in a follow up to his New York Times report from last week. The notes were relayed to Bergman by Ivry after former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak told him about how Sharon put Arafat back on Israel's kill list after assuming the defense ministry in 1981.

“David, It is possible that Arafat will be flying from Damascus to Saudi Arabia in a [S]audi plane. If this is the case — it is to be shot down. A good site must be chosen above the Saudi/Jordanian desert,” the note reads.

Bergman says Ivry gave him the note after the New York Times published a long excerpt from his new book “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.”

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Among the stories revealed by Bergman was that when Uri Avnery, a famous Israeli journalist and pro-peace activist, traveled to Lebanon to interview Arafat, a team trailed him with the aim of taking Arafat out, even at the cost of the Israelis' lives. But Arafat's maneuvering payed off and the journalists lost their tail and lived.

Avnery recalled the incident in a piece published by Haaretz last week, writing that: "The meeting did not take place at an official PLO site, but in the private home of the Shakour family, in an ordinary apartment building.

"It lasted about two hours and dealt entirely with the possibility of peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. It was the first time Arafat had met with an Israeli, and from this perspective, it could be called a 'historic meeting.' The date was July 3, 1982. I recorded every word, and the German crew was invited to film the last 10 minutes.

"Reading Bergman’s revelations, I’m very glad now about all the precautions that Arafat took."