On September 25, 1997, the Israeli secret service tried to kill Khaled Meshaal, the Palestinian political leader of the Hamas movement.
A six-member team had arrived in the Jordanian capital, Amman, a week before the date set for the assassination of the head of the Hamas political bureau who was living in exile.
The Israeli agents had entered through Jordan’s Queen Alia International airport from Amsterdam, Toronto and Paris using false Canadian passports.
Interviewed in the film, Meshaal says: “The Israeli threats started that summer. Israel had tried but failed to prevent Palestinian operations. So it escalated its threats especially against Hamas leaders abroad. With hindsight, those threats reveal what the Israelis were planning. But at the same time we felt relatively at ease since Israel had never carried out an operation in Jordan.”
Mossad’s move to assassinate Meshaal came in the wake of a series of suicide bombings Hamas carried out in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The attacks had left over 20 Israelis dead and hundreds injured.
Israel was enraged and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, called for an urgent meeting with his security services, including Mossad. He wanted a significant and telling strike against Hamas.
The objective was clear: retaliation.
At the same time there was a growing sense of mutual irritation at the heart of the Jordanian-Israeli relations. With this backdrop, Netanyahu gave the green light for the Mossad covert operation against Meshaal.
It was to involve a slow-acting but lethal poison that would gradually shut down the brain’s respiratory centre, leading to death. The plan was to spray the toxin into Meshaal’s ears, leaving no apparent trace of any weapon, and leading to death within 48 hours.
One of Meshaal’s bodyguards, Muhammad Abu Saif, had chased the two Mossad agents who had carried out the operation and, with the help of a passing Palestinian Liberation Army officer, later captured them.
The failed assassination proved to be one of the greatest fiascos in the history of special operations, and a pivotal moment in the rise of Hamas.
This two-part film features exclusive interviews with Meshaal himself as well as with Danny Yatom, the then head of the Mossad, who masterminded the attempt to kill the Hamas leader, and who later fled to Jordan with the antidote that saved Meshaal’s life.