When 'Raful' decided to liquidate Arafat

Chief of Staff informed IAF head of operations he would not be coming to work the next day. 'We're going on a trip.'

Mordechai Sones,

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Abed Al Rahim Al Khatib/Flash90

Following the horrific massacre in Nahariya of the Haran family in April 1979, then-IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan (Raful) gave an order to the Northern Command Chief Brig. Gen. (Yanush) Ben Gal: "Kill them all."

The intention, according to Journalist Ronen Bergman, as reported on Ynet, was to liquidate all members of the PLO and those associated with the organization in Lebanon. Meir Dagan, later head of the Mossad, was appointed to lead these efforts in southern Lebanon.

On June 3, 1982, journalist Uri Avnery, identified with the extreme Left, crossed the front line toward Beirut to interview Arafat in the heart of the Lebanese capital. Israel decided to exploit the arrival of three journalists in order to infiltrate the group with assassins who would able to reach Arafat directly. An argument erupted between members of the team over whether it was right to endanger Israeli civilians, and perhaps even cause their deaths. According to Bergman, they ruled in the affirmative - but Arafat suspected a plot and the task force failed to follow him into the alleys of southern Beirut.

Two months later, an attempt was made to eliminate the PLO leader from the air: Arafat was supposed to be in an office building and phantom planes were sent to bomb him, but Arafat was saved again, and the bombs were dropped before he arrived.

Bergman sheds light on the explosion in the office building in Beirut in 1982. He reports that one evening in August 1982, then CoS Raful summoned Air Force's operations department head Aviam Sela to inform him that the next day he would not arrive for work at the Air Force building in the Kirya, because he was "going on a trip".

"Wait for me in Hatzor in the morning; you're flying, I'm navigating and responsible for combat systems. We're going to bomb in Beirut."

"But the commander," Sela asked with a half-smile, "isn't Chief of Staff approval required for such a thing?" Eitan understood the joke: "Funny," he answered. "Now get ready to fly."

Sela said he was surprised by Raful's mission and knew this was another attempt to assassinate PLO leader Yasser Arafat. The next day, Eitan and Sela met in Squadron 201 at the Hatzor base and went out together to bomb the building following information that Arafat had called a meeting there.

Arafat miraculously escaped and the bombs shattered part of the building shortly before he reached it.

But then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon's ambition to eliminate Arafat did not fade. According to Amos Gilboa, a senior IDF intelligence officer, Sharon and Raful, "were simply dying to liquidate him."

Later, the Air Force prepared another plan. The IAF found a place in the Mediterranean Sea where passenger planes pass but where there was no radar coverage by any country. A Boeing 707 equipped with radar and communications systems was prepared. Under Ariel Sharon's direct instructions, Arafat's movements were regularly monitored and F-15s and F-16s were on interception alert. Over the course of nine weeks, from November 1982 to early January, the planes were flown at least five times in order to blow up planes carrying Arafat, only to receive a cancellation notice after each take-off.

All these attempts and many others to eliminate the man most identified with the attempt to dispossess the Jewish People from their land failed. On November 11, 2004, at the age of 75, Arafat died in France.

Rafael Eitan (Raful)
Flash 90








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