Israeli Commandos Raid Beirut
Lt. Gen. David Elazar, the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, holds a press conference April 10, 1973, about the previous night’s commando raid on Palestinian terrorists in Beirut. (credit: Moshe Milner, Israeli Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0)

April 9, 1973

Israeli commandos conduct a seaborne night raid on Beirut to kill three leaders in the Palestine Liberation Organization and its Black September wing, the terrorist group responsible for the Munich Olympics massacre in September 1972. The raid is connected to Operation Wrath of God, the Mossad effort launched at Prime Minister Golda Meir’s orders to punish the terrorists behind the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic team members in Munich.

The Beirut raid, Operation Fountain of Youth, is planned and practiced after the Mossad delivers detailed intelligence about the living arrangements of three top PLO officials: Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar (Abu Yousef), Kamal Adwan and Kamal Nasser. Al-Najjar, a top Fatah official and deputy to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, is believed to be one of the leading planners of Black September operations. Adwan is the PLO’s operations chief. Nasser is the PLO’s spokesman.

Israeli gunboats travel seven hours from Haifa and launch Sayeret Matkal commandos led by Ehud Barak on three Zodiac inflatable speedboats. The soldiers hit the beach at night three miles outside Beirut. They are disguised as civilian tourists, with some, including Barak, dressed as women. Mossad agents are waiting with three cars to drive the commandos to the apartment buildings where the three targets live.

The commandos are in and out of the buildings in two minutes. They kill the three PLO leaders, as well as al-Najjar’s wife and an Italian woman who responds to the commotion. Two Lebanese police are killed trying to prevent the Israelis’ escape. The Sayeret Matkal force is back on the Zodiacs heading for the navy gunboats roughly half an hour after landing.

Simultaneously, a 14-man paratrooper unit attacks the Beirut headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Led by Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, the paratroopers set off explosives that partially collapse the six-story building, and they kill dozens of PFLP fighters in a close-quarters battle. Two Israelis are killed. Helicopters evacuate the Israeli force.

Secondary missions strike PLO buildings on the south and north sides of Beirut and destroy a PLO garage near Sidon.