Operation Wrath of God: How Israel avenged its 11 deaths

Imagine a scenario, where an enemy nation goes to such an extent, that it enters the Olympic camp and kills down all the players of his enemy. But, the victim country also doesn’t just sit idle. It decided to avenge the death of its players. Now, unbelievably, the country ends up killing each and every person who was directly or indirectly involved in the massacre of its players. This is the story of Operation Wrath of God which was executed to avenge the Munich Massacre.

The Munich Massacre

It was the year 1972, and Summer Olympics was taking place in Munich which was under West Germany (back then). Suddenly, out of nowhere, 11 miscreants entered the players’ camp. Initially, the players thought that they are also players and actually helped them get in. But, it was not much late, when they realised the blunder they have committed. The 11 terrorists took 11 Israeli players as hostages. The players tried to fight, but the terrorists were able to overpower them. The terrorists called the Israeli government and demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners. Well…Israel doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, and the demand was refused.

The terrorists demanded the German authorities for a helicopter to get away from the country. Germany agreed,  and planned (behind the scene), of killing the terrorists just when they will be boarding the helicopter. Eventually, when the terrorists were getting into the helicopters, the German officers started attacking them. Looking at the situation, the terrorists killed down all 11 players they had held as hostages. In the firing, five of the terrorists were also killed, while three others were taken into custody by German officials. The 11 terrorists belonged to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and this episode is known as Black September.

The darkest day in Olympic history': Half a century later, the Munich massacre still casts a long shadow | The Star

The 11 Israel players massacred during Black September (Photo: The Toronto Star)

Israel’s Revenge

This was without any doubt, an extremely cowardly and unforgivable offence, and Israel was not going to take this lightly. It was taken as a huge setback and international humiliation. Immediately, raids were carried out at PLO sites in Syria and Lebanon. Two days after the massacre, Israel PM Golda Meir formed Committee X tasked to formulate the Israeli response to the attack. It was directed that the response should so strong, that no even can even imagine of carrying out anything even wildly similar to this, against Israel.

The mission aimed at identifying every single person who is involved in planning or executing the Munich massacre. The principal charge for the mission was taken by MOSSAD Director Zvi Zamir. At the start of the mission, 20-35 targets were identified and located that were to be given a brutal death. Interestingly, other than Mossad and some friendly European intelligence agencies, some PLO operatives were also part of the mission and were working undercover for Mossad. The mission was carried out from 1972 till 1988 until it was ensured that no one behind the Black September is alive.

A visual of a terrorist carrying out the Munich Massacre (Photo: Britannica)

Operation Wrath of God

The first assassination takes place on October 16, 1972, when a Palestinian Wael Zwaiter is killed by rounding 11 bullets on him in Rome. On December 8, 1972, the second assassin Mahmoud Hamshari was attacked. He was first honey-trapped by a female Mossad agent, and then a bomb was placed under his table in the Paris hotel. Although Hamshari didn’t die straightway after the blast, he did eventually after a month, while undergoing treatment.

On January 24, 1973, the third assassin Hussein Al Bashir was located in a hotel in Nicosia, a bomb was placed under his bed and remotely detonated. Then came the number of Basil al-Kubaissi, a law professor at the American University in Beirut. He was suspected of providing logistics for Black September.  On April 6, 1973, he was returning home in Paris, when he was gunned down by 12 bullets. Then, on April 9, 1973, the Mossad agents landed on the Lebanon coast, entered a building, and killed down three major Palestinians. The names included Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar (operation leader in Black September), Kamal Adwan and Kamal Nasser (PLO executives).

On June 28, 1973, another suspect named Boudia was killed by a pressure-activated bomb in Paris. On December 15, 1979, in Cyprus, two Palestinians Ali Salem Ahmed, and Ibrahim Abdul Aziz were shot down by silenced weapons at point-blank range. On July 23, 1982, Fadl Dani (PLO) was killed by placing a bomb in his car in Paris. It was followed by suspects namely Mamoun Meraish (PLO) on August 21, 1983, Khaled Ahmed Nazal (PLO) on June 10, 1986, and Munzer Abu Ghazala on October 21, 1986, were also killed. Then, on February 14, 1988, Abu Al Hassan Qasim, and Hamdi Adwan were killed in a car bomb explosion, while another suspect Marwan Kanafami was left injured.

Politics and Challenges

Now, ‘Israel’ has always been a polarising issue. Israel couldn’t afford the mission to get public and had to carry it out with utmost secrecy. There were times when the US and other European countries grew sceptic of Israel carrying out killings. Even amid the mounting international pressure, Israel only paused the mission but never stopped it. However, in 1973, Mossad misidentified one of its targets and ended up killing an innocent man in Norway. The investigation by Norwegian authorities found Israel’s involvement in the killing. It made the situation precarious for Israel, and it again had to halt the mission for a while, only to resume some years later.

A Brief Look at ISRAEL-PALESTINE Problem

This episode is just one example of the extreme, where the Israel-Palestine problem can reach. Ever since, Israel was formed, in between a group of Arab nations, Palestine (backed by Arabs) and Israel have been at war against each other regarding their definitions of boundaries. If you just take a look at the map of Israel and Palestine, you will majorly understand how complex the issue is. The UN in 1948, did give the two-nation solutions for Israel and Palestine, but the Arab countries out of greed and ego continued their offensive against Israel, which only worsened the situation. There have been scathing attacks through bombs, missiles, and even knives and stones on the ground. Bloodshed and chaos are very common terms in the region.

At the same time, no one should think Israel as of being the “innocent victim”. It too has never tried to be at peace and has continuously orchestrated the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land. If one looks at Palestine currently, it is even less than half of what was proposed by the UN. Despite that, the newly elected Israeli government is aiming to further “increase settlements” in Palestine. The only chance of them coming close met a brutal end with the end of Oslo Accords. Looking at the current scenario, any improvement in the relationship between these two countries seems very grim. Further, the issue, as I said is very long and complex. Actually, I have previously written on it in detail, which you all can refer to.

The major targets killed during the Operation Wrath of God (Photo: Historica Wiki)


Firstly, the story shows how pragmatic and effective an intelligence agency can be. Executing a mission like this, killing close to 35 targets in different countries, without opening to the world is just phenomenal, and is indeed a guiding point for all intelligence agencies. Secondly, one can accept that there is bitter conflict between Israel and Palestine, but in absolutely no way has Palestine ever got the right to kill innocent players in the name of “struggle”, and then expect peace and friendship from Israel. Terrorism in itself is a crime, but bringing it to something as divine as sports, was a grave cowardly act of the lowest level. And, in my opinion the culprits received the fate they rightly deserved.

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