Mossad Try To Kill Hamas Leader Fiasco
During his first term as Israel’s leader 15 years ago, Mr Netanyahu authorised a risky attempt to assassinate Mr Meshaal in the Jordanian capital, Amman. This decision amounted to a backhanded compliment of sorts: Mr Meshaal had only become the leader of Hamas’s “political bureau” a year earlier in 1996. The dispatch of anÂ IsraeliÂ hit squad so early in his leadership betrayed his rapid ascent into the ranks of people rated worthy of assassination.
To add to his standing, Mr Netanyahu thought that killing Mr Meshaal justified the risk of acting in Jordan, where Israel had a peace treaty and supposedly normal diplomatic relations.
Five agents of the Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency, were duly sent to Amman, posing as Canadian tourists. They ambushed Mr Meshaal on a street corner and sprayed poison into his left ear, inflicting instant paralysis and, so they hoped, death within 48 hours.
Then everything went wrong. The Jordanian security forces responded to this brazen daylight attack, arresting two of the Israeli agents and forcing three to hide in their country’s embassy, which was promptly surrounded by troops.
Instead of escaping over the border, the Mossad team found itself trapped in Amman. Mr Netanyahu was forced to send emissaries to King Hussein of Jordan to plead for their release. The king, who was dying of cancer, drove a hard bargain. First, Israel had to supply an antidote to the poison that was killing Mr Meshaal. Jordanian doctors duly used this to save his life.
Then Mr Netanyahu had to go beyond a standard release of Arab prisoners from Israeli jails. He ended up freeing nine Jordanians, 61PalestiniansÂ and â€“ most painfully of all â€“ Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas and Israel’s most hated foe.
Only then did King Hussein release the five Israelis. Mr Netanyahu, trapped in a debacle of his own making, found himself supplying the means to save Mr Meshaal’s life and allowing Hamas’s old mentor to walk free.
After King Hussein died in 1999, Mr Meshaal was expelled from Jordan, moving first to Qatar and then Syria. He oversaw numerous suicide attacks during the Second Palestinian Intifada between 2000 and 2004. After 26 Israelis died in two particularly brutal bombings in December 2000, one of which targeted a busy shopping street in Jerusalem, Mr Meshaal boasted: “More than three quarters of Zionists killed have died by the hand of Hamas.”
This obdurate extremist was born in the West Bank village of Silwad in 1956 when it was under Jordanian rule. But he became a refugee at the age of 11 when Israeli forces captured his home area during the Six Day War.
Mr Meshaal grew up in Jordan and Kuwait, helping to found Hamas and then rising to the pinnacle of its leadership, becoming one of Israel’s most implacable enemies.