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1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon

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Coordinates: 33°54′N 35°32′E / 33.9°N 35.53°E / 33.9; 35.53

Operation Spring of Youth
Part of Operation Wrath of God (during Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon)
DateApril 9–10, 1973
Result IDF special forces achieved their objective


Casualties and losses
2 killed 4–100 killed, including three of the highest-level PLO leaders.
2 Lebanese policemen and 4 civilians killed[1]

The 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon (known as Operation Spring of Youth, Hebrew: מבצע אביב נעורים, Mitzva Aviv Ne'urim) took place on the night of April 9 and early morning of April 10, 1973, when Israeli army special forces units attacked several Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) targets in Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon.[2] The operation is generally considered to have been part of Operation Wrath of God, Israel's retaliation for the Munich massacre at the Summer Olympics in 1972.[3]

The Israeli troops arrived at the Lebanese beaches on speedboats launched from missile boats offshore. Mossad agents awaited the forces on the beaches with cars rented the previous day, and then drove them to their targets and later back to the beaches for extraction.

During the operation, three of the highest-level PLO leaders, surprised at home, were killed, along with other PLO members. Several Lebanese security people and civilian neighbors were also killed, as were two of the Israeli soldiers.


In February 1973, Ehud Barak, the then commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, obtained photographs and precise information on the whereabouts of three senior PLO leaders:

  • Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar (Abu Youssef) – an operations leader in Black September, the group responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre. He was also a PLO veteran, previously head of the Lebanese Fatah branches, head of Fatah internal intelligence organization. His latest duties were head of the PLO's political department and one of Yasser Arafat's deputies (third in line of Fatah's leadership).
  • Kamal Adwan – a PLO chief of operations, responsible for armed attacks against Israeli targets.
  • Kamal Nasser – PLO spokesman and member of the PLO Executive Committee.[4]

The men lived in a pair of seven-story buildings in the fashionable neighborhood of Verdun in West Beirut. These buildings were residential housing for both British and Italian families along with Arab families. One building housed Al-Najjar, and a building across the street housed Adwan and Nasser.

Barak and his team immediately began planning an operation to kill them. The final plan was to land operatives from navy ships on the Lebanese coast who would infiltrate into Lebanon disguised as tourists. Some of the commandos were to be disguised as women (Barak was disguised as a brunette woman).[5] Before the mission, the forces trained using similar apartments in northern Tel Aviv. They also practiced cross-dressing and walking around disguised as lovers.[6][7]

The operation

On April 9, 1973, Israeli Navy missile boats departed from Haifa naval base, carrying the commandos and Zodiac speedboats on board. When the missile boats reached the shores of Beirut, the Zodiacs were lowered into the water. To avoid being heard, they turned the motors off when they were a few hundred meters from land and rowed the rest of the way in. The commandos came ashore where Mossad agents were waiting for them with three cars. The agents drove them to their targets.[6]

Three Sayeret Matkal commando teams entered the buildings and planted explosive fuses at the apartment doors of their targets, while a backup team led by Barak remained outside and stood guard to repel PLO reinforcements or Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) Gendarmerie units. When the fuses exploded, the commandos stormed the apartments, gunned down the three targets, and seized whatever documents they could find. Kamal Nasser, a Christian, was according to Palestinian reports, shot in front of his family, with his bullet wounds tracing the sign of the cross.[8] Al-Najjar's wife was killed during the melee, as was an elderly Italian woman responding to the commotion. At the same time, the backup team engaged in a firefight with a few dozen Lebanese ISF gendarmes and PLO reinforcements. Two Lebanese policemen were killed. The responding forces were beaten back, and Mossad cars were used to extract the commandos. While driving to the beach, they encountered a Lebanese Army armoured personnel carrier (APC) as it scanned the shore. They were not confronted and continued on to the beach, where the commandos and drivers abandoned the cars and returned to the missile boats in Zodiacs.[6]

At the same time, 14 Israeli commandos, mainly Sayeret Tzanhanim paratroopers, raided a multi-story building that housed militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The team was disguised as civilians and led by Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. The Israeli team met strong resistance early on from nearly 100 militants guarding it, and engaged in a close-quarters battle. Teams of PFLP gunmen on the building's upper floors repeatedly attempted to take the elevator to the ground floor and join the battle, but each team was wiped out by commandos waiting near the doors. The team managed to place a large explosive charge inside the building and detonate it, causing part of the building to collapse. Lipkin-Shahak then requested an air evacuation. The commandos were extracted by Israeli Air Force helicopters. Two Israeli soldiers and dozens of PFLP fighters were killed during the fighting.[9]

Two secondary forces attacked the Fatah headquarters for Gaza operations and a Fatah workshop in south Beirut. A third force of Shayetet 13 naval commandos landed in north Beirut and destroyed a small Fatah explosives workshop, while another paratroop unit raided and destroyed the PLO's main garage, located just south of Sidon.[10]

Popular culture

  • Operation Spring of Youth was featured in the 2005 Steven Spielberg film Munich.
  • The Israeli children's book The Time Tunnel – Operation Spring of Youth (2005) by Galila Ron-Feder Amit, number 32 in the Time Tunnel series, is based on this operation.

See also


  1. ^ "Letter dated 11 April 1973 from the permanent representative of Lebanon to the United Nations addressed to the president of the Security Council" (PDF). April 11, 1973. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 9, 2015. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  2. ^ J. Bowyer Bell, Irving Louis Horowitz (2005) Assassin: Theory and Practice of Political Violence, pp137, Transaction Publishers ISBN 1-4128-0509-0 Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 15, 2005). "A Massacre in Munich, and What Came After". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2010.
  4. ^ Alan Hart, Arafat, Terrorist or Peacemaker?. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1984, pp. 361–63. ISBN 978-0-283-99008-3. Quotes Abu Iyad on the killing of Kamal Nasser: "Because Kamal was our spokesman they finished him off by spraying bullets around his mouth. And before they left the Israelis laid out his body as though he was hanging on a cross." [Nasser was a Christian].
  5. ^ "Barak in drag: The daring operation to kill Arafat's deputy". Ynetnews. April 18, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/opspring.html
  7. ^ Jean Genet, Prisoner of Love. London: Pan Books, 1989, pp. 157-61. ISBN 0-330-29962-X. Guards later described the attackers who killed Kamal Adwan as: "two English-speaking hippies with fair curly hair ...their arms around one another's necks, laughing and exchanging kisses...The guards shouted insults at the two shocking queers... etc".
  8. ^ Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat and the Dream of Palestine: An Insider's Account, Macmillan 2009 p.39.
  9. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, Don't 'poke the bear' in Syria, The Jerusalem Post, October 6, 2018.
  10. ^ Morris, Benny: Righteous Victims: a history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881-1999.

External links