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Israel reveals plot to kill Saddam in 1992

Agencies | December 17, 2003 17:59 IST

Israel planned to assassinate deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1992, according to reports in Israel's leading newspapers, including Maariv and Yediot Ahronot, on Tuesday.

The plan, named Operation Bramble Bush, was aborted after five Israeli commandoes were killed while training for the mission.

The then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, had approved the plan, which was in retaliation to the 39 scuds that Iraq fired at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.

In 1992 Saddam's uncle and father-in-law, Khairallah Tilfah, died. The Israeli military believed Saddam could be killed at his funeral, the reports said.

The plan called for helicopters to drop members of an elite military unit, Sayeret Matkal, outside Tikrit, where the funeral was likely to take place. They were to fire missiles at the Iraqi leader and his bodyguards.

At a meeting to review the plan on October 2, 1992, the Israeli PM "went into the tiniest details", Yediot Ahronot quoted Nadav Zeevi, a major in the Israeli reserves, as saying.

"He checked and questioned and investigated and was very interested," Zeevi said. "At the end of the meeting he demanded certainty of at least 98 per cent before he would approve the operation."

But at a training exercise on November 5, 1992, the unit that was to carry out the attack mistakenly fired a real missile at Israeli soldiers serving as stand-ins for Saddam and his bodyguards, the report said, adding the plan was dropped after that.

Among those who were present at the exercise was Ehud Barak, then army chief of staff and later prime minister.

The deaths of the five soldiers were reported at the time as a training accident.

The Israeli military censor did not lift a ban on publication of the full story until after Saddam's capture by American soldiers on Saturday.

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