The SS transfers to Israel! - Success at last!
- From: chatnoir <wolfbat359a@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2009 13:35:43 -0800 (PST)
srael's death squads: A soldier's story
A former member of an Israeli assassination squad has broken his
silence for the first time. He spoke to Donald Macintyre
Sunday, 1 March 2009
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The Israeli military's policy of targeted killings has been described
from the inside for the first time. In an interview with The
Independent on Sunday, and in his testimony to an ex-soldiers'
organisation, Breaking the Silence, a former member of an
assassination squad has told of his role in a botched ambush that
killed two Palestinian bystanders, as well as the two militants
The operation, which took place a little over eight years ago, at the
start of the present intifada, or uprising, left the former
sharpshooter with psychological scars. To this day he has not told his
parents of his participation in what he called "the first face-to-face
assassination of the intifada".
As the uprising unfolded, targeted assassinations became a regularly
used weapon in the armoury of the Israel military, especially in Gaza,
where arrests would later become less easy than in the West Bank. The
highest-profile were those of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel
Aziz Rantisi in 2005, and of Said Siyam in the most recent offensive.
But the targeting of lower-level militants, like the one killed in the
operation described by the former soldier, became sufficiently common
to attract little comment.
Middle East envoy Tony Blair in Gaza for first time
The incident described by the ex-soldier appears almost trivial by
comparison with so much that has happened since in Gaza, culminating
in more than 1,200 Palestinian casualties inflicted by Operation Cast
Lead this January. It might have been forgotten by all except those
directly affected, if it had not been for the highly unusual account
of it he gave to Breaking the Silence, which has collected testimony
from hundreds of former troops concerned about what they saw and did –
including abuses of Palestinians – during their service in the
That account, expanded on in an interview with the IoS, and broadly
corroborated by another soldier's testimony to Breaking the Silence,
directly challenges elements of the military's official version at the
time, while casting new light on the tactic of targeted assassination
by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). So do comments by the father of
one of the Palestinians killed, and one who survived, also traced by
Our source cannot be identified by name, not least because by finally
deciding to talk about what happened, he could theoretically be
charged abroad for his direct role in an assassination of the sort
most Western countries regard as a grave breach of international law.
From a good home, and now integrated into civilian life in the TelAviv area, the former soldier is about 30. Intelligent and articulate,
and with a detailed memory of many aspects, he is scrupulous in
admitting his recall of other points may be defective.
The former conscript said his special unit had trained for an
assassination, but was then told it would be an arrest operation. They
would fire only if the targeted man had weapons in his car. "We were
pretty bombed it was going to be an arrest. We wanted to kill," he
said. The unit then went south to Gaza and took up position. It was 22
The squad's main target was a Palestinian militant called Jamal Abdel
Razeq. He was in the passenger seat of a black Hyundai being driven
north towards Khan Younis by his comrade, Awni Dhuheir. Both men were
wholly unaware of the trap that was waiting for him near the Morag
junction. This section of the main Salahadin north-south road in Gaza
went straight past a Jewish settlement. Razeq was used to seeing an
armoured personnel carrier (APC) beside the road, but he had no idea
that its regular crew had been replaced by men from an elite air force
special unit, including at least two highly trained sharpshooters.
Since before he even left his home in Rafah that morning, Shin Bet –
the Israeli intelligence service – had been monitoring Razeq's every
move with uncanny accuracy, thanks to a running commentary from the
mobile phones of two Palestinian collaborators, including one of his
own uncles. The man who was to kill him says he was "amazed" at the
detail relayed to the unit commander from Shin Bet: "How much coffee
he had in his glass, when he was leaving. They knew he had a driver
[and] ... they said they had weapons in the trunk, not in the car. For
20 minutes we knew it was going to be a simple arrest because they had
no weapons in the car."
But then, he says, the orders suddenly changed. "They said he had one
minute to arrive, and then we got an order that it was going to be an
assassination after all." He thinks it came from a war room set up for
the operation and his impression was that "all the big chiefs were
there", including a brigadier general.
The two militants would still have suspected nothing as they
approached the junction, even when a big Israel Defence Forces (IDF)
supply truck lumbered out of a side turning to cut them off. They
would have had no way of knowing the truck was full of armed soldiers,
waiting for this moment. A 4x4 was deployed by the road, only in case
"something really wrong" happened.
But something did go wrong: the truck moved out too soon, and blocked
not only the militants in their black Hyundai, but the white Mercedes
taxi in front of them. It was carrying Sami Abu Laban, 29, a baker,
and Na'el Al Leddawi, 22, a student. They were on their way from Rafah
to Khan Younis to try to buy some scarce diesel to fire the bread
As the critical moment approached, the sharpshooter said he began to
shake from the waist down. "What happens now is I'm waiting for the
car to come and I am losing control of my legs. I have an M16 with
digicom [special sharpshooter sights]. It was one of the strangest
things that ever happened to me. I felt completely concentrated. So
the seconds are counted down, then we started seeing the cars, and we
see that two cars are coming, not one. There was a first car very
close to the following one and when the truck came in, it came in a
bit early, and both cars were stopped.Everything stopped. They gave us
two seconds and they said, 'Shoot. Fire.'" Who gave the order, and to
whom? "The unit commander ... to everybody. Everybody heard 'Fire'."
The target, Razeq, was in the passenger seat, closest to the APC. "I
have no doubt I see him in the scope. I start shooting. Everyone
starts shooting, and I lose control. I shoot for one or two seconds. I
counted afterwards – shot 11 bullets in his head. I could have shot
one shot and that's it. It was five seconds of firing.
"I look through the scope, see half of his head. I have no reason to
shoot 11 bullets. I think maybe from the fear, maybe to cope with all
the things that are happening, I just continue shooting."
As far as he can recall, the order to fire was not specific to the
sharpshooters in the APC. He cannot know for certain if the troops in
the truck thought wrongly that some of the fire was directed at them
from the cars. But he says that after he stopped "the firing gets even
worse. I think the people in the truck started to panic. They're
firing and one of the cars starts driving and the commander says,
'Stop, stop, stop, stop!' It takes a few seconds to completely stop
and what I see afterwards is that both cars are full of holes. The
first car, too, which was there by coincidence."
Razeq and Dhuheir, the militants, were dead. So were Abu Laban and Al
Leddawi. Miraculously, the driver of the taxi, Nahed Fuju, was
unscathed. The sharpshooter can remember only one of the four bodies
lying on the ground. "I was shocked by that body. It was like a sack.
It was full of flies. And they asked who shot the first car [the
Mercedes] and nobody answered. I think everybody was confused. It was
clear that it had been a screw-up and nobody was admitting [it]." But
the commander did not hold a formal debriefing until the unit returned
to its main base.
"The commander came in and said, 'Congratulations. We got a phone call
from the Prime Minister and from the Minister of Defence and the chief
of staff. They all congratulated us. We succeeded perfectly in our
mission. Thank you.' And from that point on, I understood that they
were very happy." He says the only discussion was over the real risk
there had been of soldiers' casualties from friendly fire in the shoot-
out, in which at least one of the IDF's own vehicles was hit by
ricocheting bullets, and at the end of which at least one soldier even
got out of the 4x4 and fired at an inert body on the ground.
Saying his impression was "they wanted the press or the Palestinians
to know they were raising a step in our fight", he adds: "The feeling
was of a big success and I waited for a debriefing that would ask all
these questions, that would show some regret for some failure, but it
didn't happen. The only thing that I felt is that the commanders knew
that it was a very big political success for them."
The incident immediately caused something of a stir. Mohammed Dahlan,
then head of the Fatah-run Preventative Security in Gaza, called it a
"barbaric assassination". The account given at the time to the press
by Brigadier General Yair Naveh, in charge of IDF forces in Gaza, was
that it had been intended as an arrest operation, but that sensing
something amiss, Razeq had pulled out a Kalashnikov rifle and
attempted to open fire at the Israeli forces, at which point the
troops shot at his vehicle. While Razeq was the main target, it was
claimed, the two victims in the taxi were were also Fatah activists
"with ties to Razeq".
Mr Al Leddawi said last week that his son's presence was a tragic
accident of timing and that the family had never heard of the other
two men. "It was all by coincidence that they were there," he said.
"We have nothing do with the resistance in this family." Beyond saying
that he had received "not a shekel" in compensation, the taxi driver,
Mr Fuju, did not want to talk to us in Rafah last week. "You want to
interview me so the Israelis can bomb my house?"
The Israeli military said in response to detailed queries about the
incident and the discrepancies between its account at the time and
that of Palestinians, and now the ex-soldier, that it takes "human
rights violations very seriously" but "regrets that Breaking the
Silence does not provide it with details or testimony of the incidents
it alleges in order to allow for a thorough investigation". It added
that "these soldiers and commanders did not approach senior
commanders ... with their complaints during their service."
Our revelations in brief: Secret unit on a mission to kill
The Independent on Sunday has obtained an account which, for the first
time, details service in one of the Israeli military's assassination
A former conscript has told the IoS and an ex-soldiers' organisation
of his part in an ambush that went wrong, accidentally killing two men
as well as the two militants targeted.
The ex-soldier, a trained sharpshooter, says he fired 11 bullets into
the head of the militant whose death had been ordered by his
superiors. The squad was initially told it was going on an arrest
mission, but was then ordered on a minute's notice to shoot to kill.
Instead of the flaws in the operation being discussed afterwards, the
squad was told it had "succeeded perfectly" and had been congratulated
by the Prime Minister and chief of staff.
The former soldier, who was psychologically scarred by the incident,
has never told his parents what happened.
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