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Failed Killing Haunts Netanyahu

February 15, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A government committee investigating a botched assassination attempt on a Hamas leader in Jordan criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to consider the political ramifications of the operation, the Haaretz newspaper said Sunday.

Portions of the panel’s 60-page report, which is to be submitted to Netanyahu on Monday, were leaked to Israeli newspapers.

Government spokesman Moshe Fogel refused to comment on the reports before the committee’s findings are submitted.

Two Israeli agents were caught in the bungled Sept. 25 attempt to assassinate Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal in Amman. The incident caused a major crisis in Israeli-Jordanian relations.

Haaretz said the committee faulted Netanyahu for holding inadequate consultations with ministers and military officials and for failing to take into account the political ramifications on Israel’s relationship with Jordan if the operation failed.

The Yediot Ahranot newspaper had a contradictory report, saying the committee did not censure Netanyahu, but rather concluded that thorough discussions were held before the prime minister decided to go ahead with the assassination attempt. Neither paper disclosed its sources.

In the aftermath of the assassination attempt, Israel was forced to free Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin and dozens of other prisoners to appease Jordan and secure the release of its agents.

The newspaper reports said the committee censured Danny Yatom, chief of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, for failing to coordinate with other Israeli military forces or properly supervise the planning of the operation. The panel stopped short of calling for his resignation, although one committee member did say he should be fired, Haaretz said.

The committee found that Mossad officials failed to prepare a back-up plan in case the operation went wrong, the newspaper said.

To prevent similar fiascoes in the future, the committee recommended that a senior intelligence advisor to the prime minister be appointed, the reports said.

A Knesset committee that investigated the Mashaal affair reached similar conclusions, according to Israeli media Friday. That committee is also to present its findings to the government later this week.

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