Israel’s Killing Spree on Verdun Street

Yasser Arafat sits between Kamal Nasser (L) and Kamal Adwan (R) in this archive photo. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

On the anniversary of the infamous 1973 raid in the heart of Beirut, Al-Akhbar speaks to contemporaries of the three Palestinian resistance leaders who were assassinated that night.

The Israelis called it “Operation Spring of Youth.” On the night of 10 April 1973, Israeli army commandos led by Ehud Barak – currently the Israeli defense minister – carried out a raid in the heart of Beirut aimed at assassinating three key Palestinian leaders.

Landing on the shore in boats, the killers were driven by agents in hired cars to a building in the Verdun district.

Muhammad Yousef (Abu Yousef) al-Najjar, a member of the Fatah movement’s central committee, was asleep when the front door of his apartment was blown out by an explosive charge. Within seconds, one of the assassination squads stormed into his bedroom. He did not have time to reach for a pistol he kept nearby, and his wife threw her body over his to protect him. The couple were riddled with bullets.

A second group, after killing a guard, targeted the second-floor apartment in an adjacent building of fellow Fatah central committee member Kamal Adwan. When he heard a commotion outside the door, he grabbed his machine gun. But he did not have a chance to use it. He was shot in the back by another group of Israelis who had entered through the kitchen window. They fired about 60 bullets into his neck and head, severing his head from his body.

A third group raided the third floor of the same building where the apartment of the Kamal Nasser was. He was head of information and a member of the executive committee for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He tried to resist with a 6mm pistol, but it was hardly a fair battle. He fought until his last shot was spent.

The trio were among the most prominent and dynamic Palestinian leaders of their generation.Adwan was in charge of Fatah’s military operations in occupied Palestine. He was a co-founder of the movement, after having studied engineering in Cairo and worked for a while in the Gulf. He had also earlier played a leading role in Fatah’s media work.

Abu Yousef al-Najjar was Fatah’s head of clandestine military operations and a senior officer in its guerrilla force al-Asifa. He was a refugee from Ramleh in central Palestine, and was briefly active in the Muslim Brotherhood before joining Fatah and rising in its ranks.

Nasser hailed from Birzeit in the West Bank. A graduate of the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Baath party activist in his youth, he had edited the Jerusalem newspaper Filastin and was elected to the Jordanian parliament in 1956. After the Israeli invasion and occupation in 1967, he was arrested and deported to Jordan. He became a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee in 1969, and then its head of information and official spokesman.

The Verdun killings stunned Lebanon. Fatah’s second-in-command and security chief, Salah Khalaf (Abu-Iyad), accused “local partners of the Zionist entity” of complicity in the crime. He wondered how the electricity had been cut off in the targeted area just before the attack began and questioned how the assassins had been able to move about unhindered.

Contemporaries of the three murdered leaders clearly recall the effect at the time.

“The Israelis wanted to send a message to the Lebanese in general via the Verdun operation, and especially to Christian Arab nationalist Lebanese,” says the writer Muna al-Solh, a friend and colleague of Nasser. By striking in the heart of Beirut they were sending a threat to all Lebanese supporters of the Palestinians, and by slaying the well-known Arab poet who was the PLO’s most prominent Christian leader, they were repeating that warning to Arabs at large and underlining it to Christians, he says.

But their key target, in Solh’s mind, was Adwan, as he had assumed control of Fatah’s military operations inside occupied Palestine.

Muhammad Abu-Maizar, Fatah’s former head of external relations, concurs. Adwan had been given charge of operations in the western sector at Fatah’s 1971 general congress, as part of a reorganization following that year’s “Black September” in Jordan, he recalls.Adwan traded places with Abu Yousef al-Najjar, who replaced him as Fatah’s head of central information. “As a result, Abu Yousef managed media activities with a military approach, while Adwan managed guerrilla activities with a media approach,” he says.

While Abu Yousef and Adwan were singled out for their role in activating guerrilla resistance in occupied Palestine, Nasser was the “conscience of the Palestinian revolution,” according to Nazih Abul-Nidal, who worked with him on the PLO magazine Filastin al-Thawra.

Nasser “had the most democratic outlook of all Palestinian leaders at the time,” he recalls. He respected opposing views, admired the commitment of young people, and was a major recruitment asset for the Palestinian revolution. “That is why he was put high on the hit-list.”

The previous year, the Israelis had murdered another renowned Palestinian writer and activist in Beirut, Ghassan Kanafani, by booby-trapping his car in the Hazmieh district. Nasser’s successor as head of information for the PLO, Majed Abu Sharar, was in turn assassinated by the Israelis, in Rome in 1981 while attending a conference in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Another contemporary, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the Lebanese Communist Party, Karim Mroue, says the 1973 killings were “designed to serve notice that Israel can strike at the very heart of the resistance” and stage a show of power not just against the Palestinians but at the global level.

At the same time, each of the three slain men had singular qualities that made the Israelis want to eliminate them, says Maan Bashour, who was a member of the PLO information committee at the time as a representative of the Arab Liberation Front. “[They struck] Kamal Adwan because of his activities inside Palestine, and because he was the youngest of the resistance leaders and a major inspiration for youth; Abu Yousef because he was one of the main planners of the operations of the Black September organization; and Kamal Nasser, the freedom fighter from Ramallah, as a cultural and media star with his popular and especially Christian credentials,” says Bashour.

“Kamal Adwan had a wide network of contacts on the inside which enabled weapons to be smuggled to the guerrillas,” says Marwan Dajani, who had earlier worked with Abu Yousef in procuring weapons for external operations. “That is why the Israelis decided to eliminate him.”

To Dajani’s mind, “if Adwan had lived, there would have been no Oslo.”

Abul-Nidal concurs that if Nasser had survived, “he would have had nothing to do with Oslo,” though he adds that “there is no place for ‘ifs’ in the reading of history.” All three slain leaders were nevertheless strong champions of armed resistance.At the same time, Nasser, Adwan, and Najjar all “played a major role in reducing and preventing internal divisions on the one hand, and in developing the organizational side of the PLO,” says Bashour.

“They stood for Arab renaissance in the battle to liberate Palestine,” adds Solh. “That is why I was not surprised they were assassinated.” Nasser, in particular, enjoyed great appeal in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq both as a distinguished poet and likeable personality.

“Their loss was great, but it also enabled some resolve to be summoned,” recalls Dajani. The funeral of the three men was attended by the full spectrum of Lebanese and Palestinian political leaders, including those of the “isolationist right,” notably the late Pierre Gemayel. Mroue describes it as having been “the biggest funeral in Lebanon’s history.”

Abul-Nidal insists however, that revolutions do not suffer fatally when their leaders are martyred, and can often emerge more resolute. “Look at Hezbollah. Whenever they targeted its leader, a new one emerged who was even worse for the Israelis. The martyrs’ blood is fuel for the continuation of the struggle.”

But Mroue says the show of unity staged after the crime was misleading. Although all Lebanese political forces participated in the funeral, the charges of incompetence levelled at the Lebanese army concealed the failure or complicity of other players.

“We must admit that we erred in Lebanon by violating Fatah’s principle that we do not make enemies of those who have not made us their enemies,” says Dajani. “But everyone was accusing the Lebanese military and security forces, not just Abu Iyad.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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Martyred By Israeli Occupation Attacks

انّا للہ و انّا الیه راجعون

May Allah Subhana wa Ta’ ala grant the Shuhada Jannatul Firdaus, and ease it for their families, loved ones and anyone around them. Allahumma Ameen ya Rabbil Alameen. ‘ Inna Lillahi wa ‘ Inna ‘ Ilayhi Raji’un, Allahu Akbar


* The list of shuhada does not display, the numerous victims of the zionist occupation which are undocumented by media. Nor it displays the victims of the “silent onslaught” due to restrictions of movement, ability to go to hospitals for treatment or life saving surgery, due to lack of medication because of the blockades and so on. For example: The Slow Motion Genocide by the Siege on Gaza only, killed 600 patients since Gaza got under Israeli Siege.

For an overview of All Israeli Massacres Palestinians go here

Neither does this list, display the avoidable mortality. A clear and statistical factual evidence, about the number of deaths due to indecent ruling by occupation forces. For even an occupier has obligations under International Laws, Geneva Convention and the Hague regulations, which it is neglecting. These circumstances, together with deliberate policies of the occupier to neglect and even deny every basic human right, severes avoidable mortality which is totally silenced by media or reporting organisations. While in the Holocaust, 1 on 6 Jewish people directly died of deliberate neglect, so if we believe the facts over 1 million due to avoidable mortality, neither should these same circumstances be ignores which are ongoing in Palestine. For this report displays a avoidable morality of at least 0,5 million Palestinians.

How many more dead corpses of Palestinians does the international community need to see in order to act? How many more cruelties and violations of Human Rights, Regulations and International Law will be needed to intervene so this ongoing warcrime is being stopped once and for all.

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