Who murdered the athletes of the Israeli 1972 Olympic Team in Munich?
Black September Terrorist
At 4:30AM on September 5, 1972, five Arab terrorists wearing track suits climbed the six and 1/2 foot fence surrounding the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany. Once inside, they were met by three others who had gained entrance with credentials. Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five terrorists, and a German policeman were dead.
Just before 5:00AM, the terrorists knocked on the door of Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg who opened the door, realized immediately something was wrong and shouted a warning. Weinberg and weightlifter Joseph Romano attempted to block the door while their members escaped, but they were killed by the terrorists. The Arabs then rounded up nine Israelis to hold as hostages.
At 9:30AM, the terrorists announced that they were Palestinian Arabs, and demanded that Israel release 234 Arab prisoners in Israeli jails and Germany release two German terrorist leaders imprisoned in Frankfurt. They also demanded their own safe passage out of Germany. After hours of negotiations, a deal was struck with German authorities and a trip to the NATO air base at Firstenfeldbruck, by bus and then two helicopters was arranged, in order to board a plane for Cairo. German sharpshooters were standing by with orders to simultaneously kill all the terrorists without harming the hostages.
The rescue plan failed and a bloody firefight between the Germans and Palestinians followed, ending at 3:00AM when the Palestinians set off a grenade in one helicopter, killing all aboard, and terrorists in the second helicopter shot to death the remaining, blindfolded Israeli hostages. Three of the Palestinian Arabs terrorists were captured alive and held in Germany.
On October 29, a Lufthansa jet was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists who demanded that the Munich killers be released. The Germans capitulated and the imprisoned terrorists were freed.
Who were the Munich terrorists?
The Munich operation was ordered by Yasser Arafat and carried out by Fatah, Arafat's faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Fatah terrorists called themselves Black September in order to safeguard Fatah’s international image and the PLO’s political interests. Although Salah Khalaf (aka Abu Iyad) officially headed the organization, Black September refrained from publishing official statements, and its leaders kept their identity hidden. Abu Iyad’s book, Stateless, explains that Black September was closely tied to Fatah. Abu Iyad frequently refers to his personal involvement in the organization and drops transparent hints to this effect:
- Black September was not a terrorist organization, but was rather an auxiliary unit of the resistance movement, at a time when the latter was unable to fully realize its military and political potential. The members of the organization always denied any ties between their organization and Fatah or the PLO. I myself am personally acquainted with many of them, and can state with conviction that most of them belong to various Fedayeen organizations.
The mastermind of the massacre, Abu Daoud, admitted his role in his autobiography, Memoirs of a Palestinian Terrorist, published in 1999. Although this was said to be the first public acknowledgment that the PLO was behind Munich, Daoud himself essentially admitted this when under interrogation by Jordanian police in 1972. The Al-Dustur newspaper quoted him at the time as telling them:
- There is no such organization called Black September. Fatah announces its own operations under this name so that Fatah will not appear as the direct executor of the operation.
Following the Munich massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir gave instructions for Israeli agents to hunt down and kill those behind it. She told the Knesset on September 12, 1972:
- We have no choice but to strike at the terrorist organizations wherever we can reach them. That is our obligation to ourselves and to peace. We shall fullfil that obligation undauntedly.
To carry out the Prime Minister's directive, the Israeli Mossad initiated one of the most ambitious covert counterterrorist campaigns in history, called "Wrath of God". The Israeli cabinet's top-secret 'Committee-X' authorized the assassination of any Black September terrorists involved in the Munich incident. The Mossad assumed the responsibility for implementing the directive and developed several assassination teams. One unit operated through normal Mossad channels while a second unit recruited staff officers and highly trained specialists anonymously and external to the government, supported financially through covert mechanisms. The assassination team that deployed through normal channels failed to complete their mission and publicly exposed the entire operation. Over a period of years, the second team, it was later revealed, killed five of the Munich terrorists directly and three more in joint Mossad-IDF operations (See "Operation Spring of Youth" in Sources). They also eliminated four other terrorists associated with other crimes against Israel.
Abu Daoud, the leader and planner, remains at large even though he admitted his role in his autobiography. He claims his terrorist agents never intended to harm the athletes and blamed their deaths on the German police and the stubbornness Golda Meir. Daoud was awarded the Palestine Prize for Culture in 1999 for his book.
Besides Daoud, at least one other PLO terrorist linked to the planning of the Munich attack is living freely in the PA areas: Amin al-Hindi, who heads Arafat's General Intelligence Service. Israel objected in 1995 when Arafat tried to appoint another Munich suspect, Mustafa Liftawi (Abu Firas), as PA police chief in Ram'Allah.
In January 24, 2000, the official newspaper of Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida) urged Arab regimes to boycott the summer Olympic Games in Australia, because a moment of silence was planned at the start of the games in memory of the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Arafat's PLO terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Sources and additional reading on this topic:
- When the Terror Began
- Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
- The Munich Massacre
- Arab boycott of Olympics
- Munich Olympics Massacre Said to Be PLO Operation
- Countering Terrorism: The Israeli Response to the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre
- Munich September 5, 1972
- Operation Spring of Youth
- On Munich, Abu Daoud and Jewish Justice
- Mastermind of Munich Massacre to Receive the Palestine Prize
- Incident Descriptions
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