Operation Spring of Youth (1973)

The 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon (known as Operation Spring of Youth, part of Operation Wrath of God) took place on the night of April 9 and early morning of April 10, 1973 when Israel Defense Forces special forces units attacked several Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) targets in Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon.

The operation is generally considered to be part of the retaliation for the Munich Massacre at the Summer Olympics in 1972.

The Israeli Sayeret Matkal forces arrived at the Lebanese beaches in Zodiac boats launched from missile ships offshore. Mossad agents awaited the forces on the beaches with cars rented the previous day, and then drove them to their targets and later back to the beaches for extraction.

During the operation, three of the highest-level PLO leaders, surprised at home, were killed, along with other PLO members(reports of actual number killed range up to 100). Several Lebanese security people and civilian neighbors were also killed. Two Israeli soldiers were killed.

Primary Target

The main target was a pair of seven-story buildings in the fashionable neighborhood of Verdun in West Beirut. These buildings were residential housing for both British and Italian families amongst other Arab families. The building housed Muhammad Youssef Al-Najjar (Abu Youssef). The second seven-storey building was on the opposite side of the road and was residential. There were two targets in this building, Kamal Adwan and Kamal Nasser.

The team attacking the target was mostly based on Sayeret Matkal commandos, led by then unit-commander Ehud Barak (Barak later became IDF Chief of Staff and subsequently Prime Minister). The attacking team also included Yonatan Netanyahu, who became unit commander two years later and became known for leading the hostage rescue operation in Entebbe in which he was killed. The team approached the buildings disguised as civilians and couples (Barak was disguised as a brunette woman). In the building, the team killed three PLO and Black September leaders:

  • Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar (Abu Youssef) – an operations leader in the terrorist group Black September, the group responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre. He was also a PLO veteran, previously head of the Lebanese Fatah branches, head of Fatah internal intelligence organization. His latest duties were head of the PLO’s political department and one of Yasser Arafat’s deputies (third in line of Fatah’s leadership).
  • Kamal Adwan – a PLO chief of operations, responsible for armed terrorist activities against Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
  • Kamal Nasser – Poet, PLO spokesman and member of the PLO Executive Committee.

During the operation, four others were also killed: an Italian woman who lived in the building, Abu Youssef’s wife, and two Lebanese police officers.

Secondary Target

A separate nearby target was a multi-story building which housed militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Israeli team had 14 commandos, mainly Sayeret Tzanhanim Commando paratroopers led by Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, who later succeeded Barak as IDF Chief of Staff. The Israeli team met strong resistance early on, and two of its soldiers were killed. Despite this resistance, the force was able to bomb the building. Lipkin-Shahak was also decorated for bravery for his conduct in this operation.

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