By VOA News, IsraelNationalNews.com & Ha'aretz
A rumor has just been confirmed: The famous Nov. 5, 1992 training accident known as Tze'elim Bet (Two), in which five soldiers were killed, cut short an exercise designed to kill Saddam Hussein in retaliation for 40 Iraqi Scud missile attacks on the Jewish state during the 1991 Gulf War.
In Tze'elim Bet, the elite Sayeret Matkal Unit was practicing for a heretofore-unidentified mission featuring two small forces. The first unit was to arrive in a well-equipped vehicle at the funeral of Saddam's father-in-law, Khairallah Tulfah, in Tikrit, where it would positively identify the dictator. It would then signal his precise location to the second force further away, which was to fire a "smart" missile that would hone in and bring an end to the cruel despot. The exercise was cut short when the missile landed amidst a group of soldiers, killing five and wounding six.
Under the plan, volunteer troops would have flown secretly into Iraq. They were all volunteers who would fight to the death and -- if need be -- commit suicide, rather than allow themselves to be captured.
The commandos would have set up a few kilometers from the cemetery and fire two specially designed missiles that would home in on Saddam, who wore a lighter color military uniform from other soldiers. The custom-made missiles were named "Obelisk," Maariv said. After the assassination, the commandos were to be flown out of Iraq on an Israeli plane that would take off from a temporary airfield build in Iraq.
The five soldiers were playing the part of the targets, Saddam Hussein and his bodyguards, and the commandos were to fire a dummy missile at them. By mistake, a live missile was substituted, and the soldiers were killed. The mishap led to cancellation of the assassination attempt. Maariv reported that in fact, as predicted by Israeli intelligence, Saddam himself attended the funeral where he was to have been targeted.
Tulfah, Saddam's uncle and future father-in-law participated in a failed coup against the pro-British government of Iraq in 1941. Operating behind the scenes in Baghdad at the time, arranging for Nazi weapons and assistance, was the notorious pro-Nazi Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who had been on the Nazi payroll, according to testimony at the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials, since 1937, when he had met with Adolf Eichmann during Eichmann's brief visit to Palestine. Saddam Hussein was born in 1937.
After the failure of the 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Iraq, the Mufti fled to Berlin, where he spent the war years heading a Nazi-Muslim government in exile and using confiscated Jewish funds in a largely successful effort to further pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda in the Arab world.
The training accident took on a controversial nature when then Chief of Staff Ehud Barak was accused of standing by and not offering help to the wounded. A report by Israel's State Comptroller did not dispute this, but found that, contrary to other claims, he had not "abandoned the wounded" in the field.
Barak's presence at the rehearsal site reportedly would have led to speculation about what the military was up to. Israeli military censors clamped a tight ban on news media, forbidding the release of any details of the accident. Maariv and Army Radio reported Tuesday that -- with the capture of Saddam -- Israeli military censors lifted their ban on publication of the full story.
Publicizing the IDF plan to assassinate Saddam is "irresponsible," IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday. "There are things that should remain internal for security reasons, and shouldn't be revealed to the whole world in an irresponsible manner."
Labor legislator Ephraim Sneh, a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 1992, said the late-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had ordered the operation. "The credit should be given to the prime minister because it was his courage to approve this operation," Sneh told The Associated Press. "Like in Entebbe and other daring operations, it was Rabin who took this decision," referring to an Israeli operation in Uganda 1976 that freed hostages from a hijacked airplane.