The group responsible for the attacks of early that year, was an emerging group was called Black September, a PLO front group made up of the elite fighters of Fatah. The leadership of the group consisted of Abu Iyad and his handpicked team of Ahmed Afghani, Ghazi el Husseini and an Egyptian intelligence trained group of Fakhri al Umari, Ali Hassan Salameh and Abu Daoud.
In May, four Black September terrorists hijacked a Sabena flight from Brussels to Tel Aviv, hoping to free their comrades from Israeli jails. But Israeli special forces stormed the plane, killing or capturing all the terrorists and freeing every passenger. That same month a plot to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir when she traveled to Communist Romania to meet "President" Ceausescu was foiled by the Romanian secret police (DIE) when the four man hit team was arrested on arrival. Ceausescu's policy, according to him General Pacepa, was to deceave the west into believing he was a moderate leader in the communist bloc who they could work with, and the foiling of the plot on Meir saved him major embarrassment - for the moment.
In order to avoid incident, the four terrorists were treated to dinner, secretly photographed and sent given one way airline tickets back to the middle east. From the photographs the DIE were able to identify the leader of the team as Abu Daoud.
Arafat, by Abu Daoud's account, desperate to boost morale in the refugee camps by showing that Israel was vulnerable.
On July 15
Abu Daoud and Abu Iyad joined another Black September leader, Abu Mohammed, at a café in Rome's Piazza della Rotonda. Leafing through an Arabic newspaper, they spotted a report that the IOC had failed even to respond to two requests from the Palestinian Youth Federation that Palestine be permitted to take to Munich an Olympic team of its own. "If they refuse to let us participate, why shouldn't we penetrate the Games in our own way?" Abu Mohammed asked.
Their plan, according to Abu Daoud was to Kidnap the Israeli Olympic Team (he claims that "Israeli team is not civilian and each member of the team is an officer in the Israeli army and had committed killings against Palestinians.") before the whole world and exchange the Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. They gave their plan the code name Biraam and Ikrit, after two Palestinian villages from which Zionists had evicted Arab residents in 1948.
Two days later Abu Daoud was in Munich to reconnoiter the Olympic Village, then still under construction. He made a study and was "convinced of the possibility of carrying out the operation.'" After a week Abu Daoud went to Beirut and told Abu Iyad that he had studied the plan. "the [Munich] operation had the endorsement of Arafat."
Evidence of the activities of the PLO leadership between July and September 5th is piecemeal, but the following can be infered:
- According to Pacepa's recalling conversations with Arafat in October of 1972, Arafat said his "most devoted personal friend and my closest collaborator...", Hani al-Hassan, who according to KGB documents had secretly been a KGB agent since 1968, was "the brain" who had "prepared our [PLO] answer to the Olympic Committee's decision not to allow a team of Palestinian athletes to participate in the Munich games", began to coordinate the operation.
- According to his interview for One Day in September, Jamal Al-Gashey, a young Palestinian who, like Abu Daoud, joined the PLO after the Six-Day War, war sent to Libya for what was to him a mysterious type of advanced training.
- According to Clair Sterling's scrupulously researched masterpiece The Terror Network, Ali Hassan Salameh traveled to Europe and "arranged for Germany's ultra-left Revolutionary Cells to set things up for the Palistinian hit-team in Munich".
- According to Abu Daoud, Planning the operation took three weeks and cost 5,000 dollars without the plane tickets. Five hundred dollars of the amount was returned to the financial apparatus of Fatah which was headed then by the current Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas without his knowing anything about the operation. "I stayed in Lebanon many days and returned to Munich. I started preparations and studied all aspects, then asked Abu Iyad to send me the commandos," Abu Daoud said. He was holding an Iraqi passport at the time.
- According to One Day in September, Jamal Al-Gashey and the rest of the Black September terrorists flew to Rome from Algiers and traveled by train to Munich. Ali Hassan Salameh traveled to East Berlin and set up a command post.
- At 9 p.m., on September 4th, the Palestinians gathered at a restaurant in the train station for final instructions. Sometime after 3:30 a.m., September 5th, they took off in taxis for the Village. As they approached the fence, they noticed another group in warmup gear: American athletes back from a night on the town, laughing and tipsy. Abu Daoud urged his comrades to join them, to use the Americans' innocent comportment as cover while they all scaled the fence. "Not only did our men mix in with the Americans, we helped them over," he says. "And they helped us. 'Hey, man, give me your bag.' This was surreal -- to see the Americans, obviously far from imagining they were helping Black September get into the Village." With help from Stasi agents attached to the East German Olympic delegation, the terrorists made their way to the to the room of the Israeli weightlifting team.
And the rest is history
and the response came quick (sources include the sunday times and Ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky)
Ankie Spitzer, the widow of the murdered Israeli Olympic fencing coach, remembers what she and other relatives were told by the prime minister, Golda Meir. "She said, 'I'll make you a promise. . . I promise we will hunt down those that have blood on their hands in this massacre. We will' — and she said literally — 'we will hunt them down to all corners of the Earth.'" Ehud Barak confirms it. "There was no real doubt," he says, "about Golda Meir's decision to order basically the elimination of those people who were responsible." ...
A secret, fast-track bureaucratic chain was set up between Mossad's professional assassins and a panel of ministers, Committee X, that met to sanction each killing. "It was something like a week or two after the attack in Munich," says another hit man, a former army colonel whom we must call officer K. "The head of Mossad said something like, 'Israel is not going to stand still. We are going to get whoever did this, and you will be the stretched arm of this office.'"
[T]he first hit took place on October 16, 1972, just 41 days after the athletes were kidnapped. Its target was Wael Zwaiter, a translator at the Libyan embassy in Rome, who lived unostentatiously in the northern suburbs. ... after an evening with his Australian girlfriend, Zwaiter entered the lobby of his apartment block and pressed the call button for the lift. ... [Mossad Officer G said] "We shot him in the entrance to the elevator. Two full magazines. . . "
In November 1972, in order to shift the mood away from terror, Meir, with the Vatican's approval, began to organize a visit to Rome, planed for January 1973, to seek an audience with the Pope. But the PLO learned about the scedualed plans from agents inside Vatican circles. When the information reached Abu Iyad he contacted Salameh, who was in East Germany, and they agreed to attempt to assassinate "the one who is spilling our blood all over Europe." Later that November, an Israeli informer within the PLO tipped the Mossad about an operation targeting "one of yours" that would involve special equipment, which would have to be smuggled into Italy.
The death of the second victim, Mahmoud Hamshiri, in Paris in early December, raised the game to a new level. For the Israelis, the outcome had to be more than a blow to the PLO's human resources: there had to be a blow to its psyche too. "We wanted to make them afraid of being a terrorist," says David Kimche, a former deputy head of Mossad who was directly involved in the hits. ... What [Mossad's Keshet ("Rainbow") burglary unit] did was photograph Hamshiri's marble telephone table and remove a small sliver from it. Craftsmen in Tel Aviv then built a replica with plastic explosive inside, and it was this that was smuggled into the apartment. Outside, the surveillance team watched and waited. Three days later, at 9.25am, they reported that Hamshiri's wife and daughter were out and that he was alone in the flat. A telephone call lured him to the table and the bomb was detonated.
In East Germany, Salameh had devised a plot to shoot down Meir's plane upon landing in Rome using Russian-made infra-red guided SA-7 "Strella" missiles, which were available to the PLO in their training camps inside Yugoslavia. Salameh hired three Germans to take a yacht from Italy to Yugoslavia, pick up wooden boxes, and return to Italy. After the task was complete and the boxes were unloaded, the PLO killed the Germans and sank the yacht.
In the meantime, the Israeli mole in the PLO, Akbar, who had been spotted by another member of the PLO at the November meeting with Mossad agents in France, unknowingly became a key part of Black September's plot. As Victor Ostrovsky recounts (based heavely on PLO Documents captured in Lebanon in 1982), in Beirut, Black September leader Abu Yusuf learned about Akbar but decided that,rather than kill him right away and perhaps jeopardize the whole operation, Yusuf decided he'd use this knowledge to throw the Israelis off the track. While he knew they were aware that they'd been targeted, they didn't know how because Akbar had had only limited knowledge of the operation. "We will have to do something that will make the Israelis say, 'Ah, that's what it was,'" Yusuf told his officials. Which is why, on December 28, 1972, less than three weeks before Meir's scheduled January 15 visit to Rome, Meir's scheduled January 15 visit to Rome, Black September staged what at the time was seen as an inexplicable raid on the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. ... Just to make sure the Mossad did fall for the diversion, Akbar was told by his PLO associates prior to the Thailand affair to stay in Rome for the moment, but that the operation was slated for a country well outside the usual terrorist battleground of Europe or the Middle East. Naturally, Akbar passed this information to the Mossad, so that when the Bangkok attack took place, headquarters in Tel Aviv was not only convinced that this had been the operation in question, but overjoyed that no Israelis had died or even been hurt. There was quite an uproar within the Mossad over the fact that there had been a warning of such an attack, but the location had not been pinpointed. There was an even larger tremor within the Shaback, which is responsible for thesecurity of Israeli embassies and installations abroad. Akbar was certainly convinced that Bangkok had been the target all along, so he contacted his katsa to bring as much documentation as he could from the PLO safe house. The meeting would be held in a small village south of Rome, but it began in the usual way — sending Akbar to a Rome trattoria — and followed standard APAM procedures from there. What wasn't standard, however, was the result of the meeting. When Akbar was shoved into the katsa's car and his briefcase tossed to the front seat in the usual way, the security man opened it. The car instantly blew up, killing Akbar, the katsa, and both security men. The driver survived, but was injured so badly that he remains a vegetable today. ... As it turned out, the PLO made a mistake by killing Akbar before the Meir operation. They could easily have waited until he had returned to London. Even though the Mossad would have known who killed him, it wouldn't have particularly mattered to them at that point.
... Mark Hessner, head of the Rome station, had been completely taken in by the PLO's Bangkok ruse. But in Milan, Shai Kauly remained convinced there was something wrong with that scenario. Kauly was a determined, studious man with a well-earned reputation as a stickler for details. Sometimes it was a liability. He once held up an urgent message, for example, so that a grammatical error could be corrected. But more often, his meticulousness was an asset. On this occasion, Kauly's persistence would save Golda Meir's life. He kept going over and over all the reports concerning Akbar and related PLO activities. It made no sense to him that the attack in Bangkok was the same thing that Akbar had talked about: why would it have involved smuggling technical materials into Italy? Then, when Akbar was killed, Kauly became even more suspicious. Why would they kill him unless they knew he was an Israeli agent? But if they did know, then the Bangkok attack must have been a hoax, Kauly reasoned. ... As often happens in such situations, Kauly's biggest break came from a most unexpected source. A multilingual and mega-talented woman in Brussels kept an apartment at the behest of PLO fighters seeking a temporary haven in the ongoing war against Israel. A high-priced hooker, she was an imaginative PLO playmate. ... the Mossad bugged both her phone and her apartment [and] ... Just a few days before Meir's scheduled arrival in Rome, someone — Kauly thought it was Salameh, although he was never positive — in the Brussels apartment told the woman he had to phone Rome. He told the party who answered to "clear the apartment and take all 14 cakes."