Back in mid-July, Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel’s Mossad (short for HaMossad le Modi in ule Tafkidim Meyu adim, or “Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations”) participated in a radio interview on National Public Radio. The topic of the talk was the infamous nuclear deal with Iran that has been making the news and causing such a stir.

What made this interview unique—and disturbing for some in the Israeli government—was that for the first time in the media, a high-ranking (albeit former) official has shown support for the deal. But given Israel’s historical tendency to not give a damn about world opinion and to use any means at its disposal, including the alleged use of targeted killings, to protect the nation, might they opt to use the “extreme option” to outmaneuver the Iran nuclear deal?

The Israeli government, although historically quite vocal in its pledge to defend its citizens by any means necessary, has been secretive about what those means are. One of the rumored methods that has long endured is the use of targeted killings—assassinations—to both thwart nefarious plots and to mete justice to those who have kidnapped, maimed, or killed Israeli citizens. If the allegations are true, Israel took the gloves off a long time ag0, and what is underneath those gloves hits hard, fast, and invisibly.


Obviously, much of Israel’s actions against enemies remains, as they should, under wraps. The unit that is alleged to have carried out the targeted killings has (like most clandestine units) used more than one name, in this case Caesarea and Kidon, or Bayonet, and makes extensive use of female officers. CCTV footage of the January 2010 assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai featured a woman who was allegedly part of the hit team.

The methods used in operations have ranged from makeshift bombs to snipers to air strikes (the lattermost seems to be the preferred coup de grace). The earliest recorded operations came on July 13–14, 1956 in Amman, Jordan and the Gaza Strip. In both cases, the targets were Egyptian military, and one was an Egyptian Army lieutenant colonel who had been recruiting refugees to carry out attacks on Israeli soil. The method of killing in these operations were parcel bombs, and were carried out as an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) mission.

One of Mossad’s most (in)famous operations was immortalized in the 2005 movie “Munich.” A team of intelligence and special operations personnel were dispatched by then-Prime Minister Golda Meir around the Middle East and Europe to find and kill those directly and indirectly responsible for the hostage-taking and eventual deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics in the name of the Black September terror group.

The mission, code named Operation Wrath of God, was authorized in autumn 1972 by Meir, and targeted both Black September and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operatives, and is believed to have taken place over a span of 20 years (again, no one will confirm that it actually took place, much less how long it took).