The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, which has a long history of using techniques like exploding phones and assassins in wigs to take out Israel's enemies, tried and failed to kill Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with a book bomb in the 1970s, according to documentary that airs in Israel Monday night.
But the film "Sealed Lips" says that the notoriously paranoid Hussein refused to open the package containing the book himself, and instead had another Iraqi official open it. The official was killed. Brigadier-General Tzuri Sagi, the mastermind of the alleged operation, told filmmakers the device was prepared by an Israeli bombmaker identified only as "Natan."
The movie, which details the career of Yitzhak Yofi, head of the Mossad from 1974 to 1982, reveals that Mossad also used a letter-bomb in a failed hit on Nazi Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's right-hand man in the extermination of Jews. Brunner had been living in Syria for decades. He is reported to have died of natural causes in 1996.
The alleged attempt on Saddam Hussein's life had previously been unreported, though two subsequent alleged Mossad assassination attempts in 1992 and 1999 have been mentioned in the media.
In the early 1970s Israel was believed to have been assisting the Iraqi Kurdish separatist guerillas via the Shah of Iran's special forces. Iraq and Iran fought a bloody war from 1980 to 1989. In 1991, during the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein bombed Tel Aviv and Israel's main seaport Haifa with Scud missiles.
The Mossad has a rich history of targeted assassinations, mainly against Palestinian faction leaders. In the 1970s, Israeli agents killed a member of Black September, which was responsible for the 1972 Olympics massacre, by detonating his telephone. Most recently, a hit squad made up of dozens of men and women traveling on fake passports and wearing disguises that included wigs and tennis outfits were believed to have assassinated Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room in 2010.