IDF Kills Munich Massacre Planner, Ali Hassan Salameh (1979)

IDF Kills Munich Massacre Planner, Ali Hassan Salameh (1979)


On this day, 1979, the chief of operations for the Palestinian terror group, “Black September”, Ali Hassan Salameh was assassinated by the Mossad using a car bomb. Salameh was the mastermind behind the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich and was killed as part of “Operation Wrath of God” where the Mossad hunted down those responsible for the Munich Massacre.

Salameh was born near Jaffa in 1941 and received his military training in Cairo and Moscow after getting an education in Germany. A wealthy man most of his life, he was nicknamed the “Red Prince” and was soon serving as chief of security of Fatah. Fatah is an Arab-Palestinian political party established in 1959, only rising to a position of influence following the 6 Day War in 1967, led by Yasser Arafat. Stationed mostly within refugee camps in the West Bank, the party conducted acts of terror against Israel and the territories. As such, the leadership was expelled from the West Bank to Jordan in the late 60’s.

In Jordan (1969-70), a feud between Fatah and the Jordanian government ensued. The Jordanians now felt that there was “a state within a state”. Large armed resistance between the Jordanian army and Fatah began, particularly in September of 1970 when King Hussein declared martial law in an attempt to root out Fatah. An all-out conflict broke, the Palestinians suffered at least 3,500 casualties (including civilians) and Fatah was essentially forced to flee Jordan. “Organization” led by Abu Ali Iyad. At this point (1970), in an attempt to bring worldwide attention to the Palestinian cause, the attacks went global as Fatah, Black September, PLO, PFLP, DFLP began targeting Jews and Israelis in Israel, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

One of these attacks that continues to haunt Jews and Israelis to this day was carried out at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In the early hours of September 5th, 1972, 8 Palestinian terrorists from the Black September group stormed the Israeli athletes’ apartments in the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, and took them hostage. By September 6th, all would be murdered on the world stage at the airport where the German police fumbled the rescue mission, leaving the Israelis defenseless. For details of this harrowing day, see our post from 9.5.20 on Instagram or on our website

Following the shocking attack, Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan authorized a secret mission called Operation Wrath of God / Operation Bayonet where over the course of at least 20 years, the Mossad hunted down everyone responsible for the Munich Massacre. The 3 of the 8 terrorists who survived the ensuing gunfight with German police at the airport were released from custody by the West German police in exchange for a recently hijacked Lufthansa airplane.

Between 1972-1973, the Mossad and Sayeret Matkal were successful in neutralizing 7 individuals responsible for the attack and even infiltrated the PLO / PFLP HQ in Beirut (led by Ehud Barak), to eliminate their leadership. In 1973, PM Meir suspended the operation (publicly while not necessarily privately) after the Mossad mistakenly killed an innocent man who was mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh in Norway and the arrest of the Mossad agents led to the publication of the Mossad’s extensive work in Operation Bayonet.

In 1979, the mission was publicly re-activated. The Mossad had made contact with a British-based charity worker named Erika Mary Chambers (Agent Penelope) traveling in Beirut. She had previously been involved with welfare organizations for Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. She soon developed a relationship with Salameh himself and likely provided information on his regular car routes.

On this day, 1979, as Salameh was turning onto Rue Madame Curie street, 100kg of explosives attached to the car exploded – activated by Chamas mortally wounded and after being rushed to the hospital died of his wounds. & other people were killed in the explosion and 18 nearby people were injured. Mossad agents in the city left without a trace. At Salameh’s burial, Yasser Arafat was a pallbearer and in the moment is quoted as saying, “We will continue to march on the road to Palestine. Goodbye, my hero”.

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