Operation Wrath of God (Hebrew: מבצע זעם האל, Mivtza Za'am Ha'el), also called Operation Bayonet, was a covert operation directed by Israel and the Mossad to assassinate individuals alleged to have been directly or indirectly involved in the 1972 Munich massacre.
Their targets included members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, who were responsible for the Munich attack, and members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) accused of being involved.
Authorized by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in the autumn of 1972, the operation may have continued for more than 20 years.
Covert Israeli assassination units killed dozens of terrorists and conspirators across Europe during this time, as well as mistakenly murdering an innocent waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, in what became known as the Lillehammer affair. An additional military assault was launched by Israeli commandos deep inside Lebanon to kill several high-profile Palestinian targets.
This string of assassinations spurred retaliatory attacks by Black September against a variety of Israeli and Jewish targets around the world. It has also prompted criticism of Israel over its choice of targets, tactic of assassination, and overall effectiveness.
Because of the secretive nature of the operation, some details are unverifiable beyond a single source, including the story of Yuval Aviv, who claims to have led an Israeli assassination squad. Some or all information about the operation might have been placed by the Mossad itself, to cover the tracks of its agents, and spread useful rumours (e.g., in the book upon which the feature Sword of Gideon was based, most Mossad agents involved in the operation get killed, possibly a cover to protect them from revenge).
The operation was depicted in the television film Sword of Gideon (1986), and Steven Spielberg's Munich (2005)
This summer’s Olympic games in London mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre, when 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and killed by a group of eight Palestinian terrorists. The impact of the tragedy, the worst in Olympichistory, can still be felt today. In the decades that have passed since the death of the Munich 11, relatives of the deceased have worked to create an official commemoration within the Olympic community. The International Olympic Committee has ceaselessly refused.
Ankie Spitzer, widow of slain fencer Andre Spitzer, spearheaded a campaign for a moment of silence to be held at this Friday’s opening ceremony, which was championed by more than 100,000 signatures online, as well as governments in the US, UK, Italy, Germany, Australia and beyond. In response to the IOC rejection, Jspace has compiled a moment-by-moment breakdown of the events leading up to the killings, the massacre itself, and the aftermath, in the hope that we will never forget.
April 26, 1966: Munich wins its bid to host the ’72 summer games, succeeding over requests from Detroit, Madrid and Montreal. It would be the first time a German city housed an Olympic tournament since the ’36 games, when Berlin played host under Nazi regime. As a result, the German Olympic Committee goes to great lengths to present a modern, welcoming city. The ’72 Olympics are named “The Happy Games,” its logo is a pale blue sunburst, and the mascot is a dachshund named Waldi.
Also in an effort to step away from its World War II image, Munich decides to keep security lax at the games. The unarmed guards that are employed to monitor the event are not even issued standard police uniforms, but instead wear light blue outfits that match the games’ official color.
Much fuss is made over the fact that the ’72 games will benefit from a growth in media technology, with many broadcasters planning to shoot and air live coverage at Munich.
1971: Test runs for the Olympics begin. A team of trained German shepherds patrols the newly constructed grounds, which several reporters take umbrage with. It is pointed out that Munich is only six miles away from the Dachau concentration camp, and organizers create a scaled back security plan so as not to seem insensitive.
Spring, 1972: Dr. Georg Sieber, a police psychologist, is brought on by German organizers to help outline possible security concerns for the games. Sieber comes up with 26 worst-case scenarios, in an aim to create reactionary plans before a problem can arise. The doctor’s Situation 21 details a scene that would prove eerily accurate: Sieber predicts that a Palestinian attack early one morning would see terrorists scale the fence of the Israeli dormitories, take over a group of hostages, kill two to enforce “discipline,” then try to escape with the hostages via plane to an Arab capital. Despite this warning, the Israeli village would go unguarded.
Mid-July: Six terrorists, ranging in age from 19 to 26, are instructed by Fatah leaders to travel to Libya. They are forbidden to tell their families where they are going or for what purposes. In Libya, the men train for an unspecified mission.
Three weeks before the attack:New reports show that the foreign ministry in Bonn, Germany, receives intelligence from Beirut that an attack on the Israeli Village may take place. The message is sent to Munich, but nothing is done with the information.
Meanwhile, Israeli delegation head Shmuel Lalkin tells the Olympic Committee he is uncomfortable with the location of Israel’s lodgings. He says the dorms are too far apart from populated areas and worries about the lack of armed personnel, putting his team in danger.
Aug. 26: The games begin.
Aug. 31-Sept. 2: Eight members of Black September arrive sporadically in Munich from Libya.
Sept. 3: Terrorist Jamal Al-Gashey attends two volleyball matches with one of his fellow Black September members.
Sept. 4, 8 pm: The Israeli delegation attends a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” presented in German and starring Israeli actor Shmuel Rodensky. Simultaneously, the six trained terrorists gather at the Munich Central Railway Station, 10 minutes away from the theater. The men eat dinner at the station restaurant, where they are joined by Muhammad Massalha, 27, and Yussef Nazzal, 25, who possess secret orders for the operation. A plan is revealed to kidnap Israeli athletes for use as leverage in the exchange of some 200 Palestinian prisoners from the Jewish state.
9:30 pm: The Israeli team is invited backstage during intermission to meet the “Fiddler” cast. The group takes a picture with the performers, the last they will ever pose for.
Midnight: The Black September terrorists locate specified lockers at the Munich railway station and remove an arsenal of weaponry that has been stored there for them.
Sept. 5, 4 am: Eight members of the Palestinian terror group Black September quietly scale the fence of the Israeli Village, as athletes inside sleep. The terrorists head to 31 Connollystrasse, a dormitory containing five apartments that house the Israeli men’s team.
4:42 am: Black September enters 31 Connollystrasse.
The terrorists come upon wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg at Apartment 1. Weinberg struggles with one terrorist, getting shot in the process. The wounded coach is ordered to take the men to the rest of the team. Forced by gunpoint, Weinberg leads the terrorists past Apartment 2, where field athletes are housed, instead heading to Apartment 3, where the weightlifters and wrestlers sleep. Weinberg’s hope is that the stronger athletes may have a chance of overpowering the gunmen.
Hostages in Apartment 3 are rounded up and marched back to Apartment 1. Weinberg makes a final attempt at stopping the terrorists, knocking one out and stabbing at another with a fruit knife. The scuffle allows wrestler Gad Tsobari to escape via an underground parking garage. Weightlifter Yossef Romano (who is injured and on crutches, planning to fly back to Israel in one day to undergo surgery) joins his friend Weinberg in attacking the terrorists. Both Israeli men are shot and killed. The terrorists now have nine living hostages.
5:10 am: Shmuel Lalkin discovers the naked body of Weinberg in a hallway and alerts authorities, who arrive on the scene.
6 am: Israeli news outlets pick up the story. What would become a media frenzy begins.
7:40 am: The terrorists demand the release of 236 Palestinian prisoners, giving a 9 am deadline.
9 am: The first deadline passes. Authorities are able to secure extensions to continue negotiations, pushing the deadline time back to noon, then 1 pm, then 3 pm, then 5 pm. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir is in constant communication with German officials, but insists that Israel will not give in to terrorist demands.
3:50 pm:Zvi Zamir, head of the Mossad, arrives in Munich, despite German protests that Israel does not need to send its own security team over.
4 pm: German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, realizing the negotiations are turning futile, offers himself up in exchange for the Israeli athletes. Massalha, who acts as representative for all the Black September members, refuses.
4:30 pm: Hostage Andre Spitzer pokes his head out a window and speaks to German authorities. He says all but one of the hostages is okay.