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Middle East

Israel finally admits killing Arafat’s deputy in 1988 raid


Lifting a nearly 25-year veil of secrecy, Israel acknowledged today that it killed the deputy of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in a 1988 seaborne raid on Tunisia.

Two of those involved in the operation now hold high political office: the Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon.

At the time, Mr Barak was deputy military chief, and Mr Yaalon was head of the Sayeret Matkal unit. Their precise roles in the operation were not divulged.

Israel has long been suspected of assassinating Khalil al-Wazir, better known as Abu Jihad.

But only now has the country’s military censor cleared the Yediot Ahronot daily to publish the information, including an interview with the commando who killed him, 12 years after the newspaper got the information.

“I shot him with a long burst of fire,” commando Nahum Lev told Yediot. “I was careful not to hurt his wife. He died,” Mr Lev told Yediot prior to his death in a motorcycle accident in 2000.

“Abu Jihad was involved in horrible acts against civilians. He was a dead man walking. I shot him without hesitation.”

Abu Jihad founded the Palestine Liberation Organisation with Mr Arafat and was blamed for a series of deadly attacks against Israelis. He organised the first Palestinian uprising against Israel, which began in December 1987. The following April, Israel killed him.