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Monday, February 16, 1998 Published at 16:10 GMT



Despatches

Netanyahu cleared of failed assassination
image: [ The three-man panel was appointed to investigate the most embarrassing affair in Mossad's history ]
The three-man panel was appointed to investigate the most embarrassing affair in Mossad's history

Israel's Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu has been cleared of blame for a bungled assassination attempt in Amman last year on a leader of the radical Islamic group Hamas. The official inquiry into the incident places much of the blame for the attack on the Israeli external security service, Mossad. It described the assassination plot as amateurish. The incident led to a major crisis in relations with Jordan, Israel's main ally in the Arab world. The report's findings have not been published and there is no demand for the resignation of the Mossad chief, Danny Yatom. Our Middle East correspondent, Paul Adams, reports from Jerusalem:


[ image: Khalid Meshal: accused by Israel of terrorism]
Khalid Meshal: accused by Israel of terrorism
Mossad's plan to assassinate Khalid Meshal was fundamentally flawed. From the point of view of planning and execution, the operation was a catalogue of mistakes.

That, in essence, is the conclusion of the three-man panel appointed to investigate the most embarrassing affair in Mossad's history. The commission took 47 meetings and 35 witnesses to get to the bottom of what happened in Amman.


[ image: Sheikh Ahmed Yassin: released because of the incident]
Sheikh Ahmed Yassin: released because of the incident
The episode damaged Israel's relations with Jordan and forced Binyamin Netanyahu to release the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin along with 70 other prisoners.

Israel said Meshal was involved in organising terrorist attacks. Hamas said Meshal had nothing to do with military matters.


[ image: Mossad's chief, Danny Yatom: given most of the blame]
Mossad's chief, Danny Yatom: given most of the blame
The committee's report, most of it classified, stops short of demanding the resignation of Mossad's chief, Danny Yatom. However it is widely believed he will step down in the summer, not least because Jordan's King Hussein has apparently warned Israel not to expect any further intelligence cooperation until Mr Yatom goes.

Binyamin Netanyahu himself escapes without criticism, much to his critics' dismay. Speaking on Monday morning, the Prime Minister said that Israel would continue to fight terrorism wherever necessary.

The Meshal affair may have gripped the nation five months ago, but now Israelis are too preoccupied to notice. The looming conflict in the Gulf has led to a run on protective supplies and gas masks. Mossad's failures seem rather less immediate.






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