Operation Wrath of God was a counter-terrorism operation directed by the Mossad national intelligence agency of Israel to assassinate Palestinian leaders suspected of being involved in the 1972 Munich Massacre, in which 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and killed by the Black September Organization. Most of the assassinations were against "soft targets" in Western Europe, but the operation also saw special forces operations such as Operation Spring of Youth, which saw three PLO leaders and 100 Palestinian fighters be killed in an Israeli raid on Lebanon. One Mossad agent said that the operation had 35 targets, with teams of around 12 kidoni each being sent to track down and assassinate their targets, usually via car bombings or shootings. The operation's goal was to enact preventive measures to ensure that no further terrorist attacks would affect Israel, but the assassinated Palestinian leaders were replaced by more radical leaders; Cyprus Black September chief Hussein al-Bashir was replaced by the tougher Zaiad Muchasi after his assassination, and when Muchasi was assassinated, the even-worse "Carlos the Jackal" took over the group and launched a series of terrorist attacks in France. The operation lasted for over twenty years, from 1972 into the 1990s.
At 4:31 AM on 5 September 1972, Palestinian Black September Organization members Luttif Afif ("Issa"), Afif Ahmed Hamid ("Paolo"), Yusuf Nazzal ("Tony"), Khalid Jawad ("Salah"), Ahmed Chic Thaa ("Abu Halla"), Jamal al-Gashey ("Samir"), Adnan al-Gashey ("Denawi"), and Mohammed Safady ("Badran") entered the Olympic Village in Munich, West Germany during the 1972 Summer Olympics. They kidnapped 9 Israeli athletes and killed two of them during the kidnapping that morning, and the athletes were loaded into two helicopters at Furstenfeldbruck. The hostage-takers demanded a prisoner exchange with Israel, hoping to free over 200 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. However, German police decided to mount a rescue operation, and it went terribly wrong, with all of the hostages being blown up before all but three of the hijackers were killed. The al-Gashey brothers and Safady were arrested, but they were later released by West Germany in exchange for passengers on a hijacked Lufthansa plane. The massacre was seen across the world on television, ruining the Olympics and bringing the Palestinian cause into the public eye. Palestinians cried when the terrorists were killed, while the rest of the world cried when Jim McKay said of the athletes, "They're all gone".
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir prepared to strike back at the terrorists and avenge the innocents killed at Munich as well as all of the other citizens murdered by the Palestinians, from the Jews at Munich and in Israel to the Christians at Lod Airport. Suspsected leaders of Black September would be tracked across the globe and be assassinated alongside any people accused of taking part in the Munich massacre. Israel's Mossad intelligence agency would divide into teams of kidoni, assassins that would strike back at the Palestinian leaders. Mossad's director Zvi Zamir was responsible for carrying out the operation, which would be implemented mostly in Western Europe, trying to avoid the Eastern Bloc and Arab League countries.
One of the most important teams in the operation was led by veteran Israel Defense Forces soldier Avner Kaufman, and it consisted of the cleaner Carl, the getaway driver Steve, the bomb-maker Robert, and the documents man Hans. For their first assassination, they contacted the Red Army Faction, which was willing to exchange the names and locations of the Palestinian leaders in exchange for hard cash to fund their activities. The first name given to them was Wael Zwaiter, a poet who served as the Palestine Liberation Organization's representative in Rome, Italy and was allegedly responsible for the attempted bombing of an El Al plane. On 16 October 1972, Avner and Robert shot Zwaiter eight times as he waited for the elevator in his hotel, the first victim of their operation.
The Red Army Faction put Kaufman in touch with Le Group, a freelance French group that supplied intelligence and information on people to the highest bidder. The Mossad team was funded through a Swiss bank account, so they were constantly given more money by the government, and they bought information on Mahmoud Hamshari, who was recruiting for Fatah in France. On 8 December 1972, he was blown up when a bomb exploded in his telephone, but he only died a few weeks later, as he was mortally wounded in the explosion.
On 24 January 1973, the team was given information on Black September KGB contact Hussein Abad al-Chir, who was in Nicosia, Cyprus at the Olympic Hotel. A bomb was planted under his bed, and his room was destroyed when the bomb was detonated. On 6 April 1973, another team succeeded in assassinating Basil al-Kubaisi in Paris, shooting him with 12 bullets - one for each of the Israeli athletes and the German policeman killed at Munich.
The most controversial part of the operation occurred on 9 April 1973, when Sayeret Matkal commandos landed on the coast of Lebanon in Zodiac speedboats. Their goal was to assassinate Abu Youssef, Kamal Adwan, and Kamal Nasser, three PLO leaders living in Beirut. The Sayeret Matkal team was accompanied by Mossad agents, and the Israelis killed 100 PFLP and PLO fedayeen, including the three Palestinian leaders. Future Prime Minister Ehud Barak took part in the operation, dubbed "Operation Spring of Youth", and the operation succeeded in hitting its targets. Le Group almost ceased working with Mossad due to Kaufman's alse fassurances that he was not working for any government, but its leader decided to continue working with Kaufman as long as there were no more infractions in their policy of not working with governments.
On 11 April 1973, Mossad assassinated the new Cyprus chief of the PLO, Zaiad Muchasi by bombing his apartment, and a Russian KGB agent was also killed in the attack, which led to a cooling of Israel-Soviet Union relations. On 28 June 1973, Mossad killed Mohamed Boudia in Paris with a car bombing, the last major successful target of 1972-1973. Ali Hassan Salameh survived numerous assassination attempts, including his planned assassination in London, an attempt on his life at a church in Zurich, Switzerland, where he met with Abu Iyad, and a failed sniper attack in Tarifa, Spain in 1974. Kaufman's team lost Carl in London to Dutch freelance assassin Jeanette van Nessen, so they killed her on a houseboat in Hoorn, Netherlands. Robert and Hans were later killed by the Palestinians as well, and after the failed Tarifa raid, Steve and Kaufman were forced to return to Israel without killing him. Salameh was only killed in January 1979 when Mossad assassin Erika Chambers killed him in a car bombing. On 27 July of that year, the Palestinians took another hit when PLO military chief Zuheir Mohsen was killed outside of a casino in Cannes, France.
During the 1980s, many PLO leaders were assassinated across Europe. Many of them were defenseless and had no known connection to the Munich massacre, but Israel used the massacre as an opportunity to forestall future terrorist attacks by killing all of the terrorist leaders. On 10 June 1986, DFLP Secretary-General Khaled Ahmed Nazal was killed in Athens, and on 21 October Munzer Abu Ghazala was bombed in the same city. The last major assassination was Atef Bseiso on 8 June 1992, with two gunmen with suppressed weapons shooting him in Paris. Some believed his death to be at the hands of Israel, while others believed that the Abu Nidal Organization murdered him. The operation had at least 35 targets, most of which were killed in the operation. However, Munich's mastermind Abu Daoud lived until his death in 2010 of natural causes, and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat also survived.