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Ali Hassan Salameh

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Ali Hassan Salameh
Ali Hassan Salameh
Nickname(s)Red Prince
Born1 April 1941
Qula, Mandatory Palestine
Died22 January 1979(1979-01-22) (aged 37)
Beirut, Lebanon
Black September
Years of service1958–1979
RankChief of operations
UnitForce 17
Battles/warsMunich massacre, Sabena Flight 571
Spouse(s)Um Hassan
Georgina Rizk

Ali Hassan Salameh (Arabic: علي حسن سلامة, ʿAlī Ḥasan Salāmah; 1 April 1941 – 22 January 1979) was a Palestinian militant who was the chief of operations (code name Abu Hassan) for Black September, the organization responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre and other terror attacks. He was also the founder of Force 17. He was assassinated by Mossad in January 1979[1] as part of Operation Wrath of God.


Salameh was born in the Palestinian town of Qula, near the city of Jaffa, to a wealthy family on 1 April 1941.[2] He was the son of Shaykh Hassan Salameh, who was killed in action by the Israeli army during the 1948 Palestine war near Lydda. Ali Salameh was educated in Germany and is thought to have received his military training in Cairo and Moscow.[2]

He was known for flaunting his wealth, being surrounded by women and driving sports cars, and having popular appeal among Palestinian young men; his nickname underlined his popularity—the "Red Prince". He served as the security chief of Fatah.[3] After the Munich massacre during the 1972 Olympic Games, he was hunted by the Israeli Mossad during Operation Wrath of God. In 1973, Mossad agents killed an innocent Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchiki, in what became known as the Lillehammer affair in Norway, mistaking Bouchiki for Salameh, and resulting in the arrest of some of the Israeli agents.

As a result of the failure in Lillehammer and his alleged CIA protection, Salameh felt relatively safe. Having lived under cover in various parts of the Middle East and Europe, in 1978 he married Georgina Rizk, a Lebanese celebrity who had been Miss Universe seven years earlier in 1971. The couple spent their honeymoon in Hawaii and then stayed at Disneyland in California.[4] When Rizk became pregnant, she returned to her flat in Beirut where Salameh also rented a separate apartment. Rizk was six months pregnant at the time of his death.[5] Their son Ali Salameh is a political science graduate who studied in Canada.[6] By a prior marriage he was a grandson-in-law of Mohammad Amin al-Husayni. He had two sons from his first marriage to Um Hassan.[5][7]

Salameh served as the key bridge between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1970 until his death. The PLO, at the request of the US, had undertaken steps to help ensure the security of both the US Embassy—Salameh responded by posting a PLO guard unit there[8]—and, more generally, American citizens resident in Lebanon. The contacts later developed more extensively as the PLO offered its intelligence assistance in regard to larger regional issues.[9][1][10] The US had undertaken with Israel to avoid contacts with the PLO, but US security interests under Gerald Ford, on the advice of Henry Kissinger, enabled an unofficial relationship which, when discovered by Israel, deeply disturbed officials in Tel-Aviv. When asked by the Israelis, US officials denied the relationship.[11] Israel decided to kill him in order to disrupt the channels between the US and the PLO.[9]


It is believed[12] a Mossad agent, pseudonymously known as "Erika Chambers", who had entered Britain via a British passport, took part in Salameh's assassination. She travelled to the Middle East with a charity supporting Palestinian refugees and arranged a meeting with Salameh in Beirut, where Salameh was being harboured by the Lebanese government. Chambers learned Salameh's daily routine.

On 22 January 1979, Salameh was in a convoy of two Chevrolet station wagons headed from Rizk's flat to his mother's for a birthday party.[4][13] Chambers was on her balcony painting, with her red Volkswagen parked below on Rue Verdun (an upscale commercial and residential street in Beirut). As Salameh's convoy passed the Volkswagen at 3:35 pm and turned onto Rue Madame Curie,[14] 100 kg of explosive attached to the car by a fellow Mossad agent was remotely exploded,[1] either by Chambers or on her signal to another Mossad agent.[15]

The detonation left Salameh conscious, but severely wounded and in great pain, having pieces of steel shrapnel embedded in his head and throughout his body. He was rushed to the American University of Beirut, where he died on the operating table at 4:03 p.m.[16] Salameh's four bodyguards were also killed in the explosion.[17] Four bystanders were also killed.[1][15] In addition, at least 16 people were injured in the blast.[17] Immediately following the operation, the three Mossad officers escaped as well as up to fourteen other Mossad agents believed to have been involved in the operation.[15]


Salameh was buried in Beirut after a public funeral ceremony attended by Yasser Arafat and about 20,000 Palestinians on 24 January 1979.[18][19]

In popular culture


  • Bar-Zohar, Michael; Eitan Haber (1983). The Quest for The Red Prince: The Israeli Hunt for Ali Hassen Salameh the PLO leader who masterminded the Olympic Games Massacre. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-78063-2. which includes black-and-white photographic plates and which also include Yasser Arafat, together with an index.
  • Michael Bar Bar-Zohar and Eitan Haber (1 December 2005). Massacre in Munich: The Manhunt for the Killers Behind the 1972 Olympics Massacre. The Lyons Press. ISBN 978-1592289455.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Noam Shalev (24 January 2006). "The hunt for Black September". BBC News Online.
  2. ^ a b "موسوعة المصطلحات والمفاهيم الفلسطينية". دار الجليل للنشر والدراسات والأبحاث الفلسطينية. 1 January 2011.
  3. ^ Ali Baghdadi (27 March 1998). "Other Voices: Time for Arafat to retire". Arab American News. Archived from the original on 11 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013. – via Highbeam (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b "An Eye for an Eye". CBS News. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b "How MOSSAD got the Red Prince". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  6. ^ Ali Salamah, Georgina Rizk's son got married in Cairo, Egypt
  7. ^ Simon Reeve (2000). One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation "Wrath of God". Arcade Publishing. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-55970-547-9.
  8. ^ Ronen Bergman, Rise and Kill First Random House 2018 pp.216-218
  9. ^ a b Rashid Khalidi, The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917–2017, Metropolitan Books 2020 ISBN 978-1-627-79854-9
  10. ^ David Ignatius (16 September 2001). "Penetrating Terrorist Networks". The Washington Post. p. B07. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  11. ^ David Ignatius (12 November 2004). "In the end, CIA-PLO links weren't helpful". U-T San Diego.
  12. ^ "Munich (3): BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind". 24 January 2006.
  13. ^ University of Southampton New Reporter. People. 9 (17). 8 March 1992.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  14. ^ John Weisman (18 July 2006). "Conspiracy Theory". Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  15. ^ a b c "Death of a Terrorist". Time. 5 February 1979. Archived from the original on 14 August 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  16. ^ Simon Reeve (1 September 2000). One day in September. Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1559705479.
  17. ^ a b "Munich massacre leader killed in Beirut explosion". Observer Reporter. Beirut. AP. 23 January 1979. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  18. ^ "Funeral held for Salameh". The Leader Post. Beirut. 25 January 1979. Retrieved 18 December 2012.
  19. ^ Middle East International No 92, 2 February 1979; Helena Cobban pp.3-4 puts the number attending the funeral as 50,000
  20. ^ David Ignatius (17 September 1997). Agents of Innocence. The Journal of Risk and Insurance. Vol. 64. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 205–230. ISBN 978-0393317381. JSTOR 253729.
  21. ^ Robert Ludlum (1 July 2008). The Janson Directive. St. Martin's Paperbacks. p. 581. ISBN 978-0312945152.
  22. ^ By Way of Deception. pp.179,181,185-86,191,197,201-2,205-6.