Israel's Greatest Hits: Before Dubai, a History of Targeted Killing

Eyed in the murder of a Hamas official, Israel almost never admits to killings.

ByABC News
February 16, 2010, 5:32 PM

Feb. 17, 2010 — -- When a group of harmless looking tourists reportedly employed fake passports and elaborate disguises to kill a top Hamas leader in his Dubai hotel room last month, the hit had all the hallmarks of an Israeli assassination, according to former CIA officer Robert Baer. Such operations would be nothing new for Israeli intelligence, Baer said.

From the series of targeted killings carried out in response to the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich to a spree of car bombings and sniper attacks in recent years, "the Israelis have never really stopped assassinations," Baer said. "They've just gotten better at it."

Here are some of the most elaborate operations attributed to the Israelis and their secretive spy force, Mossad, in press accounts -- even though the government has disavowed involvement in almost every instance.

October 16, 1972 -- Two Israeli agents shoot Palestinian Abdel Wael Zwaiter 11 times in his apartment building after he returns home from dinner in Rome. The hit is believed to be the first of dozens of retaliatory assassinations against those directly or indirectly involved in the Munich Olympics attack. Zwaiter was the PLO representative in Italy.

June 14, 1980 -- French police find the Egyptian-born head of Iraq's nuclear program, Yahia El Meshad, bludgeoned to death in a room at the Hotel Meridien in Paris. The body of a prostitute, believed to have witnessed the murder, is found later. El Meshad's death is considered at the time to be a major setback for the Iraqi nuclear program. No one is arrested, but press accounts say the French suspected Israeli intelligence.

August 20, 1983 -- Two burly gunmen on a red motorcycle fire a silencer-equipped pistol into the car of Mamoun Meraish as he drives down a highway near Athens. A top aide to Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat, Meraish was on his way to the Greek port of Piraeus to visit a ship he'd purchased for $450,000 that police believed he had intended to use to for secret PLO shipping operations. The PLO blames Israeli agents.

September 25, 1997 -- Using forged Canadian passports, two Mossad agents travel to Jordan and follow Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Muslim fundamentalist group Hamas, as he goes shopping in a residential part of western Amman. When the agents approach Meshal, a scuffle ensues. Meshal suffers a mysterious injury and loses consciousness. The agents, it is later determined, had sprayed Meshal with an unknown poison. Meshal is able to recover, but not before the botched attempt leads to embarrassment for Israel.

2002 - 2006 -- Israel is suspected in a series of car bombings that kill a succession of senior Hezbollah officials, including the top Hezbollah security officer, Ali Hussein Salah. He dies when a two-kilo car bomb explodes as he heads to work in southern Beirut.

February 12, 2008 -- Hezbollah military mastermind Imad Mugniyeh is killed in a massive car bombing in downtown Damascus. A man long sought in connection to the deadly bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires and the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 U.S. service members, Mugniyeh had eluded U.S. and Israeli agents for decades, even with a $5 million bounty on his head. Mossad agents tried twice to kill him in Beirut, killing his brother by mistake in 2004. Israel takes no credit for the Damascus bombing, and Mossad's hand is but one credible scenario in explaining the bombing. But senior Israeli and American officials do little to hide their glee. "The world is a better place without this man in it," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at the time.

August 1, 2008 -- Muhammad Suleiman, a top Syrian army officer and right-hand man to President Bashar al-Assad, collapses on a beach near the Syrian resort of Tartous, where he has a vacation villa. His death is attributed to sniper shots to the head and neck, fired from a yacht moored far offshore. Following his death, there are conflicting reports about who was responsible, with some pointing to Syrians, and others to Mossad.