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Terrorist Suicide Operation Analysis


CSC 1985










In the second half of the twentieth century terriorism has


become a critical issue all over the world. It is no longer


limited to small and remote countries or to historically explosive


regions such as the Middle East. Terrorism has managed to flourish


in almost every democracy in the world: the PLO in Lebanon and


Israel, the Corsican movement in France, Armenian terrorists in


Turkey and North America, the Provisional IRA in Ireland and Great


Britain, the Red Brigade in Italy, the Red Army in Japan, the


Baader-Meinhof Gang in West Germany, the Libyan state-sponsored


"death squads" in the Middle East and Europe, the Tupamoros in


Uruguay, and recently the Maoist Shining Path movement in Peru and


the Shiite fundamentalist groups in Iran and Lebanon. Most of


these organizations have found it convenient to cooperate with each


other, forming what the author Claire Sterling has accurately


depicted as a "terror network." These groups do not restrict their


operations to their original country or area and have spread a mesh


of terror over the entire world. A quick glance at the map of


terror in the world shows that the groups concentrate on and appear


to cooperate to some extent on missions in democratic countries,


countries where public opinion has significant influence on


goverment policy.


Terrorism has become a weapon by which the fear of masses of


innocent civilians exerts a pressure on the governments responsible


for their safety, a pressure which often forces unwilling


compromises with the terrorists and which yields them an indirect


but quite potent form of political power. What motivates groups


towards terrorism? We can classify terrorist groups as follows:


Nationalist motivations (e.g. the PLO), ideological motivations


(e.g. Marxist groups such as elements of the IRA and Maoist groups


such as the Shining Path), religious motivations (e.g. Shiite


funadmentalist groups), and motivations that extend the power of an


existing nation state (e.g. the Libyan "death squads"). Some


groups appear to have a narrow focus, such as the abortion clinic


shutdowns attempted by some pro-life groups in the U.S. or the


Shiite groups in Iran and Lebanon. Other manifest several


tendencies at once such as the Marxists national liberation groups.


During a June, 1977, conference on international terrorism held in


France, Professor Dror of Israel's Hebrew University defined the


six trends that have assisted the growth of terrorism into a first


degree, strategic problem in the second half of the 20th century:


1. The rapid development and proliferation of all kinds of


weapons and the ability of terrorist organizations to acquire large


quantities of efficient and destructive devices.


2. The modern socio-technological system which has developed


and created numerous highly vulnerable targets such as


transportation nets, power grids, and dense concentrations of




3. The development of mass media which now permits terrorists


rapid and direct access into people's homes, allowing them free


advertising of their goals, grievances, and power. In a sense, the


media have transformed many butchers into media stars, often


permitting greater media access to the Daniel Ortegas of the world


than to the Sister Theresas.


4. Modern transportation, especially aircraft, which serve as


a tool for rapid evacuation and mobility for the terrorists. It


also permits the selection of targets which are diverse and widely


separated, allowing the PLO in Lebanon to hit targets such as the


Lod Airport massacre using Japanese Red Army terrorists flown in on


commercial jets.


5. Controversies and disagreements in the international system


which result in either active or passive support. This is


especially troublesome with countries which behave as if they were


paranoid creations instead of national legal entities and who use


terrorists as tools for their political, ideological, or religious


goals. Examples here include the Soviet Union, Libya, Syria, Cuba,


and Iran, who support avrious groups with funds, weapons, training


instructors and bases, and even diplomatic cover.


6. Finally, the Western emphasis on a tradition of political


liberalism and a sensitivity to human rights issues. While


acknoledging the positive aspects of these traits, it must be


accepted that they place a great burden on Western nations' ability


to effectively counter terrorism.


Terrorism, like any major sociological phenomenon, is a very


broad and complex subject. In this research paper, I chose to deal


with two dimensions of terrorism found in the PLO: terrorist


training and suicide missions which spring from nationalist


motivations. The concept of premeditated suicide training and


operations is strange and quite difficult for most individuals


brought up in a Western Free World culture. For that purpose, I


will use an operation conducted by the "Fatah", a component of the


PLO, on 4-5 March 1975 in Tel-Aviv... the "Savoy operations." The


goal of the analysis of this operation is to familiarize the reader


with this special type of terrorism so as to provide a better


understanding and knowledte of how to deal with this plague of


modern societies. Knowledge such as this is a key ingredient to


success in military operations so it is perhaps fitting here that


we remember the words of a classic Chinese military thinker seen


through the pen of his modern day counterpart, Mao Tse-tung:


"We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the


great military expert of ancient China, 'Know your enemy and know


yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.'"


Each terrorist operation is different, unique due to the


familiar characteristics of battle and men. Thus, one Fatah


mission will be somewhat different than another. I have chosen a


"typical successive" suicide operations but again I must emphasize


that is only one example from Fatah and not necessarily typical of


other terrorist organizations.


The analysis of this operation has been conducted from a


military perspective and the investigation was only looking at the


terrorist side of the operation. In order to understand the


motivations of these terrorists, it is impossible to avoid touching


on some broader issues such as the political aspects of the PLO. I


will attempt to avoid these issues, including the social psychology


of the Palestinians, to the extent possible. These issues are


naturally a part of the operations mainly as they affect the morale


and motivation of the terrorists. In this work of limited scope,


they will be dealt with as necessary.


The first part of this research paper will describe the


training of the PLO: military, political, ideological, and


psychological. I will examine this as a generic topic, without


tying it specifically to suicide type missions. This will provide


the reader with some background on terrorism, the PLO as an


organization, and its people. The second part of the paper will


analyze the specific operation which occurred on 4-5 March 1975 and


which was described by the Israeli State Radio as follows:


"On the night of March 4th, 1975, at 11:00 PM eight terrorists


in two teams were landed by rubber boat on Tel-Aviv's beach.


Shooting and throwing grenades, they captured the Savoy Motel near


the center of the city, capturing the guests as hostages. Early in


the morning of March 5th, an Israeli paratroop unit penetrated into


the motel, killing seven terrorists and capturing one. Five


hostages were freed and five were killed by the terrorists. A few


hours later the ship that transported the terrorists was captured


and its crew (including another terrorist commander) were taken as






Background of the PLO


The PLO was founded during a convention in East Jerusalem in


May, 1964. In June, 1964, the PLO declared its resolutions,


including the goal of the liberation of Palestine: "Palestine is


an Arab homeland." The so-called Palestinian problem stems from


1948 and the Israeli War of Independence when 600,000 Palestinian


refugees spread over the Arab World during the conflict with the


Arab countries. Most of these refugees found temporary homes in


Jordan and Egypt. The Fatah was also founded in 1964 and was


initially sponsored by Syria. Fatah is the largest and most


influential group in the PLO. Since February, 1969, Yasser Arafat


has served as the Head of the PLO. See Figure 1 for a current PLO


Organizational Chart.


Since its inception, the PLO has conducted its fight with


Israel using both political and military means and supported by all


of the Arab states. The resulting guerrilla war with Israel peaked


in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon, and the Israeli Defense Forces


(IDF) destroyed the PLO's bases and forced them to be evacuated to


other Arab states. The war between the Palestinians and the Jews


is not just the fighting of two nations over the same piece of land


but also involves a battle between two distince cultures. The PLO


represents an oriental society with its traditions and habits.


Israel is basically a Western-style democratic society on a


socialist model. This last sentence, emphasizing the cultural as


well as the national basis of the conflict, should be kept foremost


in the reader's mind as he/she follows the rest of this paper.


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Terrorism as a form of political expression has no


meaning unless it is supported by physical and moral terrorism.


Throughout the century until the mid-1960's terrorists


believed that they had only to give a man a bomb or a revolver


and encourage him to throw it or fire it at "the enemy." These


agents provocateur gave their agents no training in how or where


to use their weapons and it was not even considered essential


that they should know how they worked. Fatah was the world's


first organization to embark upon systematic training for


terrorism and the other groups within the PLO soon followed.


From the military point of view, such training made good sense:


for terrorisim to thrive, it must be seen to be successful and


greater success could only come from efficient training.


Training includes few different areas. In this work, I


will deal with the following areas of training: military


trainings, political and ideological training, and psychologist


training. Each area of training is completed with the other


ones and those all have the same final goal: to build a


structure of military force in order to fight Israel.


Military Training:


The early extensive training of Palestinians was


carried on in Algeria. Later on, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon


became centers of training activity. After the Jordanian


civil war on September 1970, training camps were moved out


of Jordan, mostly into Syria and Lebanon, which became the


major locus of training camps, supply depots, and repair


facilities. In 1971, Libya began to fund and organize


training camps. At the high point of PLO-Libyan relations


in early 1972, there were said to be as many as 8,000


commandos training in Libya. Specialized training is given


in Algeria, Egypt, and Libya. Palestinian frogmen are said


to have been trained in Ras Hilal near the Libyan-Egyptian


border since 1971.


Selected trainees have been sent to the People's


Republic of China and Vietnam. Palestinians are trained


also in Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait, Uganda, the Soviet Union, East


Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The


training camps are usually in rear areas, often in


mountainous terrain and are kept as inconspicuous as


possible. Installations usually consist of nothing more


than ordinary buildings or tents.


The instructors are not always themselves terrorists.


Many come from regular army units and are specialists in the


use of explosives and booby traps, small arms, camouflage,


field survival, attacks against underwater targets, and in


assassination. Secured from the armies of Libya, Algeria or


Syria, these men do a tour of duty in some terrorist camp


and then return home. Other teachers are Palestinians who


have been specially trained as instructors in Arab


countries. By 1976, progress in training had reached a


point where a "War College of the Palestinian Revolution"


was graduating officers to serve in the "al-Asifah forces."


The Soviet Union and other eastern block countries,


especially East Germany, are training Palestinian


instructors and also sending selective men from special


units who visit terrorist camps to impart particular


knowledge about the recognition and killing of enemy


intelligence agents, for instance. South Yemen has become a


major training center, mainly because its geographically


isolated position gives it a high degree of invulnerability


from attack and security from spies. At any moment in South


Yemen, in the three camps at Hanf, Mukalla and Al-Gheidha,


about 700 Cubans, backed up by 1,500 Russians and 116 East


Germans, are training terrorists from all over the world.


Trainees have included members of the German Red Army


faction and the South Moluccans of the Netherlands. The


Egyptian magazine October reported on May 16, 1978:


South Yemen has turned the island of Socotra

into a stronghold for the Palestinian terror

organizations and for terrorists from many

countries. Soviet experts are also operating

on the Island.


The Russians initiated their intensive training in


1978. Hundreds of Palestinians were being given advanced


terrorist training in 40 top security schools, mostly in the


Moscow suburbs and also at Baku, Tash Kent and Odessa. A


course is attended by up to 60 PLO trainees, drawn from the


various groups according to a quota system. The routine is


well established. Carrying doctored Jordanian, Iranian or


Lebanese passports, the recruits travel to Moscow, where


they are met by the Director of the PLO office.


The first lectures are about the achievements of the


Bolshevik Revolution and the advantages of the Soviet


order. After aptitude tests, those Palestinians considered


above average are transferred for special courses to KGB


schools, though they are not allowed to meet the


intelligence officers from Libya, Syria, Iraq and South


Yemen who are trained there.


Between 1974 and 1979, at least 1,000 Palestinians had


been trained in the Soviet Union or other eastern block




There is a description of a training camp at Sanprobal


near Simferapol on the Black Sea and it says:


There for six months, the Palestinians--along with

activists from Libya, Iraq, South Yemen and Algeria--

are given an arduous course of study, including basic

military field exercises, communications techniques and

lectures in theory. But at the heart of all this

instruction comes extensive 'engineering classes' . . .

The syllabus includes the following:

Study of regular and electronic detonators

Production of incendiary devices

Preparation of an electrical charge by means of a


Study of exploding metals

Crossing rivers by rubber or wooden boats

Study of fuse types-detonating card red;

instantaneous fuse red; safety fuse black

Blowing up of vehicles, ammunition dumps, petrol


Preparation of anti-personnel minefields.


In an Arab country, a typical camp contains from 100 to


150 recruits. A Fatah camp in Syria, for example, had 120,


ranging in age from 17 to 25, with five military


instructors, a physical training instructor, and a political


commissar. The rank and file of the recruits are made up


predominantly of peasants and members of the lower middle


class with the great majority coming from the refugee camps.


A volunteer that is accepted is sent to a training camp


for a trial period of 20 days, during which his stability,


obedience, and capacity for self discipline are assessed.


About a third of the volunteers are said to fail. Those who


pass go on to take the regular course, lasting two months,


as full fledged guerrilla terrorists. Physical training


includes long distance running, jujitsu, and karate.


Military training starts out with instruction in the


use of a variety of weapons, such as automatic rifles and


pistols, bazookas, rockets, mines, and "white weapons"


(daggers and bayonets). Tactical training includes


simulated individual and group attacks on enemy


installations, ambushes, laying mines, crossing minefields,


crossing electronic fences, and hand-to-hand combat.


Seasoned recruits go through maneuvers with live ammunition,


and run over obstacle courses which include barriers of


flaming kerosene. Night marches are often undertaken and


many hours are spent on guard duty. Special attention is


given to familiarizing the recruits with use of the terrain,


which is often not well-suited for guerrilla operations,


except for mountainous areas. Discipline in the camps is


strict; alcoholic drinks are prohibited and meals are


usually eaten standing up. A man found asleep on guard duty


three times in a row is summarily discharged. The typical


training schedule is as follows:


4:00 A.M. Reveille, a run, physical training


4:45 A.M. Breakfast


5:15 A.M. Wash, clean up camp


7:30 A.M. Assembly for discussion, day's program

distribution of tasks


9:30-10:00 A.M. Free time


10:00-12:00 Noon Physical training, close combat

training, reading


12:00-1:30 P.M. Lunch


1:30-3:00 P.M. Free time, cleaning equipment, weapons

training, target practice


3:00-5:00 P.M. Political education


5:00-6:00 P.M. Free time


6:00 P.M. Supper


8:00-9:00 P.M. First night watch begins, lights out


In addition to the commando subjects, there are few


schools that have full size dummy aircraft for practicing


the art of hijacking. Detailed plans of every type of


passenger aircraft are available from the PLO's central


intelligence department and the movement of cabin staff has


been studied and reported.


Other subjects that are being taught in foreign


countries include photography, forgery, languages,


cryptography, oratory and disguise.


Terrorists chosen for a raid against Israel in which


they have little chance of surviving are not of high


intellectual calibre. Their training has been largely


military with a heavy emphasis on indoctrination, based on


the duty they owe to Islam. Many leave on their mission


expecting to become "martyrs" and, therefore, to reach


paradise immediately after death at the hands of Israeli


soldiers. Their main aim is to kill as many Israelis as


possible. To this end, their training has been designed to


make them persist in the face of all the odds against them


and not to surrender. Certain terrorist coups, such as the


raids and massacres of children at the towns Kiryat Shemona


and Maalot show that the training has been horrifyingly




The PLO has neglected no aspect of training. It


includes aviation in Syria. Its major terrorist amphibious


training center is at Benghazi, Libya, which is far enough


from Israel to deter the Israelis from striking at it. They


used to have an amphibious warfare school at Tyre, Southern


Lebanon, until the War in 1982.


Training is so diverse and is taken so seriously that


the PLO in 1978 created an affiliate organization, the


Palestinian Administrative Development Institute (PADI) to


run management training courses. Graduation ceremonies are


held and a high ranking PLO official always attends. PASDI


is partly designed to give the PLO a respectable face in the


management-minded West and is an integral part of a master


plan which can only be seen as extraordinarly sophisticated.


Political Training


In keeping with their ideological conceptions of


insurgent war, all commando groups provide some form of


political training. The rationale behind this attitude is


expressed by a Fatah leader: "In a liberation movement,


political policy springs from the mouth of the rifle, and we


in Fatah are fighters in the political field as well as in


the military field. Each of these fields serves and


complements the other with Fatah's general strategic plan.


Thus, we do not differentiate between political action and


military action, and to emphasize this we refrain from


sending to the armed resistance field any combatant unless


he passes through our political organization."


The same leader said that Fatah's basic rule is that


its men "should first be politicians, and then fighters."


The terrorist training camps devote as much as ten hours a


week or more to political indoctrination and discussion.


Each camp ordinarily has its own library containing Arabic


newspapers and periodicals, the Palestinian National


Covenant, the numerous publications of the PLO and Fatah,


and the writings of terrorist leaders like Habash and


Hawatimah. Instruction is given in subjects such as Arab


and Islamic history, the Palestinian cause, the goals of the


Palestinian Revolution, and the "evils" of Zionism and




A description of political training in Fatah camp says:


"Political formation is of a much lower standard than


military training. Certainly there are political books:


Castro, Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Giap, Rodinson, General de


Gaulle's memoirs and also Mein Kampf. In view of my


surprise at the inclusion of the latter work, the political


commissar explained that it was necessary to read everything


and that, as the Israelis behave like Nazis, it is useful to


know something about the Nazis."


The general intellectual level is underdeveloped, and


if we do not consider the presence of revolutionary books as


the expression of an integrated political culture, it can be


seen during discussion on precise points (not general


declarations and stock phrases) that the theoretical tools


are embryonic and the ideology confused. From Fanon they


take the description of the psychology of the colonized and


the need to resort to violence: from Guevara, the test


advocating the need for armed conflict; from Mao, the


concept of the prolonged war; from Debray, whose works are


extensively translated into Arabic, the idea that the party


is useless, for "the guerrilla nucleus is the party in


gestation." The only elements which are in some way


integrated are those that can be integrated by a national


movement, which is what Fatah really is.


Another description of Fatah political training was


provided by Al-Sayyad. The school, called "The School of


political cadres," consisted of a corridor of a building.


It contained a blackboard, an emblem of Fatah, a map of


Palestine, and a blow up drawing of Kalashnikov. The


students were regular Fatah members and the instructor was a


Fatah unit leader. The curriculum consisted of: the study


of different revolutions, the historical background of the


Palestine conflict, the aims and ideologies of the movement,


the Zionist movement and Israeli military establishment, the


revolutionary awakening and revolutionary conduct, the


geography of Palestine, and training techniques which would


be used in helping Arab farmers.


Another visitor to the PFLP school (Habash faction)


described that the course lasted five months, longer than


those run by other movements. The training given both


political and military was directed to forming cadres


capable of running bases, creating and giving purpose to


clandestine cells and planning guerrilla action in town and




The program was based on 45 hours of work per week, the


political and military studies alternative from week to


week. The political program was developed into four


sections with courses made up of factual lectures,


explanations and discussion of books. The status of


teachers varied: some had come to give only one lecture and


depart, while others were paid staff. The students, aged


from 18 to 30, were carefully selected and their program


covered these subjects.


1. Marxist-Leninist Theory:


Principles of Marxist Philosophy


The Communist Manifesto


Marx, Engels, Marxism, Lenin


Utopian Socialism and Scientific Socialism


State and Revolution


Origins of the Family, the State and Property


2. The Kind of Age We Are Living In:




Revolution and Counter-Revolution


National Liberation Movements and Neo-colonialism


The Socialist Camp and the Third World


The Revolution in China, Korea, Vietnam and Cuba


The Workers' Movement in Europe


The National Arab Liberation Movement


Arab Unity and Socialist Perspectives


3. Political Problems:


Israel and What it is Like


Imperialism and the Arab Reaction


The Strategy of the War for Popular Liberation


The Nature of the Regimes in Jordan, Lebanan, Syria,


Iraq, Egypt


The Palestinian Problem and the Arab World


4. PFLP:


The Birth and Development of the Movement


The First Split and its Causes (PFLP-High Command)


The Second Split and its Causes (PDFLP)


The PFLP as the Marxist-Leninist Party


The PFLP at the Military Level


Relations with Political Organizations and the Arab




The PFLP in Lebanon


The PFLP and the Arab Nationalist Movement


Comparing Fatah, the PFLP and PDF shows that PDF's


training ahead of any of the others, in sophistication,


including as it does exposure to the works of such western


thinkers as Maurice Dobb, Paul Ravah, and Charles




PLO Psychological Training


Aside from the various other training functions one would


expect in a "shadow government" and a military organization, one


PLO training department deals specifically with terrorism, that is


to say, the psychology of terror as opposed to its tactics which


are taught separately. The PLO appears to have been first in the


specific use of psychological conditioning of terrorist forces.


Prior to the introduction of psychological training, the degree of


terror induced from a mission had been merely that which naturally


resulted from the individual act (e.g. raid, embassy seizure, or


aircraft hijacking). The PLO ensured that its schools were staffed


with psychologists who specialized in the "fear factor." The most


effective of these instructors were Soviets and Bulgarians


although, after 1978, Syrians, Iraqis, and Palestinians largely


took over psychological training from the Soviets.


Trainees are taught that the greatest degree of terror can be


induced in adults by making either explicit or implicit threats


against children. This technique has been used many times against


those Israeli Arabs who have not been eager enough to help the PLO


with safe houses, funds, and information. Students of terrorism


are also told that uncertainty engenders fear and, therefore,


hostages should never be given information of any kind so as to


heighten this aura of uncertainty. Discomfort also increases the


hostages stress, fear, and uncertainty; for this reason hostages


are normally not permitted the use of the lavatory or even to stand


up and stretch. Constant efforts at reducing the hostages


self-confidence are taught to students of terror tactics: again, it


is taught that he should be killed. Additional tactics are taught


concerning demoralization of hostages: hostages are never to be


allowed to comb their hair, to wash up, or to use cosmetics. it


can seen that these techniques, when taken together, tend to weaken


the will, the morale, the confidence and sense of identity of


hostages. These techniques come directly from the Soviet KGB


manual on the treatment of political prisoners.


Students are constantly reminded that "terror must be seen to


be terrifying;" making people half afraid means nothing. They must


really believe that their lives are in danger. Then, they will


never forget."





This part is based upon facts and from the author's personal


knowledge the framework of the analysis of the operation will be as




A. Mission.


B. Concept of Operations


C. Biography of the Terrorists and Their Backgrounds.


D. Sequence of Actual Events.


E. Training.


F. Psychological Preparation.


G. Equipment.


H. Intelligence Gathering and Deception.


I. Comparison the Plan and Execution.


Now that we have studied the training of the PLO in military,


political, and psychological areas, we will look at their execution


of terrorist missions. We will look at terrorist operations from


the following perspectives:


A. Types of operations.


B. Reasons for chossing certain objectives.


C. Reasons for choosing the specific date of an operation.


A. Types of Operations


Terrorist operations can be generally divided into two types:


raids (i.e. limited objectives missions with planned withdrawals)


and suicide missions (i.e. missions where no planned withdrawal


exists... "one way" operations where the terrorist(s) are trained


for the mission execution and to kill themselves while doing the


mission). Raids may involve either killing missions, mining or


booby trapping operations, hostages kidnappings, hit-and-run mortar


or rocket attacks, or some combinations of the above. Suicide


missions may also involve kidnapping hostages so as to dramatize


the event with prolonged negotiations over certain demands to be


met for their release; in the final analysis, the tactics used


still inevitably call for suicide and involve murder of the


hostages...typical for the killing mission.


B. Reasons for Choosing Certain Objectives


Objectives for both raids and suicide missions are mainly


oriented against people even when the military objectives are set


as buildings. An objective can be chosen because it serves as a


political feature (e.g. Parliament), it is a religious holy place


(e.g. the mosque at Mecca), or will house an important function


(e.g. the IRA attack on the British conservative party convention).


An objective can be selected several times in order to force people


to permanently leave it (e.g. repeated PLO shellings and three


terrorist attacks on the northern Israeli city of Naharia). An


objective can be chosen because it is symbolic (e.g. Kibbutz


Hanitta was attacked four times because it represents a symbol of


the Jewish settlements in the far north of Israel). There are also


the reasons of proximity and intelligence: an objective is chosen


either because it is physically convenient (e.g. the recent attempt


to put a car bomb into Metullah on the Israeli-Lebanese border) or


because terrorist intelligence indicates that penetration to the


objectives has a high probability of success (e.g. the recent


tourist penetration of the White House should alert the reader to


the potential for a similar terrorist penetration of such high


political value targets).


C. Reasons for Choosing the Date of an Operation


Dates normally symbolize well-known historic events such as the


Israeli declaration of independence, date of the founding of the


PLO, or date of the start of the 1967 War. Some dates may not be


as obvious to all: the date of an Israeli retaliation raid which


occurred years ago and was not-highly publicized; the date of an


important event in a country which provides support to the


terrorists (e.g. May Day). Of course the date of an operation may


be closely tied to the objective, as in the case when there are


ongoing peace negotiations that the terrorists want to disrupt; in


those cases, the terrorists are providing a violent political forum


to remind people of their goals and power. A final reason is one


normally associated withy military operations: the date is one when


the forces are ready to execute, intelligence is adequate, the


weather is suitable, etcetera....


The Savoy operation represents a typical suicide killing


mission. It was planned to hit into the Tel-Aviv city center,


which is in the most densely populated region of Israel, in order


to create an impressive shock effect. The operation was in


retaliation for a surgical raid that the Israeli Defense Forces did


into Beirut in April, 1973, where they killed three of the top PLO


leaders. The Savoy operational group was named after one of these


martyred terrorists, Youssef Abu Nagar; a psyhological point that


the PLO'S Beirut radio station emphasized while the Savoy mission


was ongoing. The date of the Savoy operation was chosen because of


purely military reasons concerning team readiness and


transportation. The type of operation selected for the Savoy


operation, the suicide killing mission, related most probably to


the high risk involved in any attempted withdrawal from such urban


terrain located so far from terrorist safe havens, as well as the


fact that it was a sort of demonstration of faith in the memory of


martyrs, an auto da fe.


A. Mission


This was the mission briefed to the group on 20 February 1975


by "Abu Gihad":


Suicide mission to capture two objectives in Tel-Aviv: (1) the


Manshia neighborhood Youth Club, and (2) the Tel-Aviv Opera


Building. The group would gather as many hostages as possible and


then make demands for the release of prisoners in Israeli jails.


If the Israelis would not meet the demands in 4 hours the hostages


would be killed and the terrorists would commit suicide. In case


the two objectives could not be located, any alternate populated


buildings would be selected as targets. During the movement over


the beach and assault on the objectives, the group was directed to


kill as many Israelis as possible.


B. Concept of Operations


A small commercial ship would transport the group from its base


in Lebanon along a commercial route with a deviation to bring them


to a point 25 miles west of Tel-Aviv. The eight man group (there


were originally 10 in training) would be divided into two four man


teams, departing from the ship at night with each team in a rubber


boat. Four hours of motoring was planned with naviation by compass


and use of the light houses located north and south of Tel-Aviv.


After landing, each team would move to its assigned objective with


shooting in the streets. After seizure of the objectives and


hostages, negotiations were planned. If the Israelis would meet


the demand for the release of the 20 POW's, the terrorists and


their hostages were to be evacuated by commercial aircraft to


Damascus. If the Israelis would not meet the terrorists' demands,


which was anticipated, the entire Savoy group would commit suicide.


There was no alternative withdrawal plan.


C. Biography of the Terrorists and Their Backgrounds


1. Musa Juma El-Tallka, age 23. His parents were Bedouins


(i.e. desert tribesmen) who left the town of Beer-Sheba in the


south of Palestine in 1948, immigrating to Zarka in Jordan. Musa


was born in 1952. At the refugee camp in Zarka, Musa was taught in


school that he was from Beer-Sheba. At the age of 19, in 1969, he


joined the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) and went through


military training near Jarash. After a few months, he quit and


crossed the Syrian border to join Fatah. There he spent several


more months in training. His story picks up again in 1972 when he


tried to penetrate with four other terrorists into northern Israel


through the Golan Heights. The Israeli Defense Forces discovered


the penetration and, after an exchange of gunfire, the team


withdrew. In early 1974, Musa joined the special boat commando


(SBC) section of Fatah and was sent to the Syrian Navy camp called


Muaskar El Gabla which is located near the port of Latakia. He


underwent training in swimming, diving, and naval demolitions. At


another camp called Burg-A-Slam, also near Latakia, Musa was taught


boat handling, and sea navigation using a compass. This special


training took place in November, 1974. Following that, Musa was a


member of a four man team sent to Lebanon where they were briefed


about a killing raid by "Abu Gihad," the Head of Fatah's armed


forces. This killing mission involved swimming south along the


Mediterranean coast to attack the Israeli tourist city of Naharia.


The team failed to find Naharia and swam back. After two months,


Musa was again called to "Abu Gihad," and was told about a new


mission, the operation that would become the Savoy operation. Musa


was to become the only survivor of the Savoy Mission.


2. Muhammed Mashala was born in Tool Karem, a city on the West


Bank. He was raised in a healthy family environment and graduated


high school in 1969. Muhammed then went to study in Beirut


University but he soon decided to quit and to join Fatah. He was


recruited into the intelligence department of Fatah and sent to


special Hebrew language training in Damascus. In 1972, Muhammed


was sent into Israel across the Jordan River on the legitimate


pretext of visiting his family. He spent most of the time on


reconnaissance in Tel-Aviv. After that, he was sent to Kuwait on a


recruiting mission where he also did propaganda work and money


collection. Muhammed was described as an arrogant man who was


proud that he was the only one with a high school education in the


Savoy operational group.


3. Hader Muhammed, age 28, the oldest member of the Savoy


group. he was born in Gaza. The son of a fisherman, he had


natural expertise in seamanship. Hader joined Fatah when he was 16


and it had just been founded. He went to Beirut from where he was


sent to the Fatah Headquarters in Abasia, Damascus. From then on,


Hader devoted his life to fighting the "hated Jewish state." He


said that the Fatah was his only home. Hader was on one


penetration operation into Israel before 1967. In 1970, he was


wounded during an Israeli raid to Karame, Jordan. During the 1970


"Black September" fighting with the Jordanians, Hader escaped from


Jordan to Syria. Until the Savoy operation, Hader spent most of


his time as in instructor in camps in Syria and in southern




4. Ziad Talk El Zrir. Ziad was younger brother of the


commander of Fatah in southern Lebanon. His brother, Azmi Zrir,


was killed later during Teh 1982 Lebanon War. Ziad made himself


responsible for morale in the Savoy group. Originally from Hebron,


Ziad was an extremely devout Moslem.


5. Musa Awad, age 19. Two months prior to the Savoy


operation, Musa escaped from the Gaza Strip. Like Hader Muhammed,


Musa was the son of a fisherman.


6. Muhammed El Masri. Originally from Nablus, a city on the


West Bank, Muhammed was an introvert and not a good team worker.


Hsi father died when he was young; Muhammed spent most of his youth


in the streets, never joining any school. He was a young criminal


who was under police surveilance. Muhammed joined Fatah as a way


of escaping from the police. He had a speech impediment, was a


follower. He saw Fatah as his home.


7. Abu El Lel, age 22. Abu's family is originally from Lydda,


Israel, although he was born outside of Israel.


8. Ahmed Hamid, age about 26. His family is orginally from


Ramalla on the West Bank where he was born. He was very




There were few common links betwen the members of the Savoy


group. Here are a few examples of these links:


a. Most of them were connected to the land of Palestine by


having been born there or having parents who still lived there,


including the West Bank and Gaza.


b. All, except Muhammed Mashala, had no high school education.


At least three members of the group had no formal education.


c. All, except two, of the group came from sociologically


unhealthy family environments. Some had social problems, such as


juvenile crime, from their early childhood.


d. From the military perspective, there was varied levels of


operational experience in the group. Three had been on previous


raids. Two had no experience.


e. All members had been trained in Syria and Lebanon.


f. None in the group had a personal vengeful motive; none had


family members hurt or killed by Israelis.


Social Composition of the Group


The group was composed of two different social types:


Palestinians whose origin was the West Bank and those who came from


the Gaza Strip. El Gonfer, their instructor, noticed the tension


between these types which was due to the inferiority that the Gaza


Palestinians felt towards those who came from the West Bank. The


West Bank Palestinians held Jordanian citizenship and had restored


their lives from the refugee camps; they had a sound educaion.


Those who came from the Gaza Strip had been kept in the refugee


camps by the Egyptians who treated them as second class citizens;


they were forced to depend on the U.N. for aid. In Palestine, the


Gaza people had originally come from mud villages along the


Mediterranean beach; the West Bank people had lived in stone


villages. These two social types were suspicious of each other and


built their social infrastructure in the group within these


subgroups. Another aspect of the group's social composition was


the contrast between the young, inexperienced terrorists and those


who were relatively more mature with experience from previous


operations. "Abu Gihad" recognized these social differences and


personally decided on the membership of each team. Each team was


built from equal membership of these social types and commanders


from each sub-grouping. Hader Muhammed came from Gaza and Ahmed


Hamid came from Ramallah on the West Bank.


D. Sequence of Actual Events


28 December 1974: Musa Guma, El Tallka, and Ahmed Hamid were


called to the Headquarters of Fatah in Damascus, Syria, and were


asked to "volunteer" for a special, dangerous mission. The


commander who called and spoke with them was "Abu Gihad", the


commander of the military arm of the Fatah Organization.


29 December 1974: Musa Guma and Ahmed Hamid reported to the


headquarters of the special boat commando department (hereafter,


SBC) in Latakia, a Syrian port. They were received by the


commander of that department, Gallal Abdalla, whom they had known


from previous terrorist training. They were introduced to the


remainder of the group, which at that point was composed of 10 men.


30 December 1974: The group met "Abu Gihad" and were briefed


in general about the dangerous mission that they had volunteered


for; this was the first that the other eight of them had heard of


the mission. The mission described by "Abu Gihard" was:


"Every one of you has been chosen for a mission of penetrating


into Israel from the sea. You will have to train yourselves


intensively in boating, sea navigation, and swimming. Each one of


you was chosen for the mission due to your special talents and the


fact that the Organization has trust in you."


31 December 1974: Gallal Abdalla, the SBC department


commander, brought the group to a camp called Burg-A-Slam near the


Latakia beach. There they met their instructor "El Gonfer"


(literally, "the lion cub"). "El Gonfer" was 19 years old.


1 January 1975: Training began and lasted a month.


31 January 1975: The group, including their instructor, was


directed to be moved to the refugee camp Sabra in Beirut by


telegram from the Fatah headquarters in Damascus. They were driven


from Syria into Lebanon in civilian clothing carrying special


certificates signed by Syrian Intelligence.


3 February 1975: The group reported to the Sabra camp


commander, Azmi Zrer, who was also the Fatah commander of South


Lebanon. The terrorists were briefed in greater detail about the


mission by "Abu Gihad":


"You will sail in a ship which normally carries fuel cargo for


Cyprus. Your direction will be south towards Egypt. The ship's


captain will bring you to a spot 30 miles west of Tel-Aviv's beach.


The rest of the way you will motor with two rubber boats so that


the Israeli radar will not discover you. When you arrive at the


beach you will capture two public buildings with hostages. Later


on, you will be briefed about the exact buildings, the way to deal


with the hostages and the Israeli government."


"Abu Gihad" then named the commanders of the two teams that


were to take the buildings: Hader Muhammed and Ahmed Hamid. The


group was moved to a base of the SBC in Sarafend, about 8


kilometers north of Tyre, and remained there. The camp is located


in an isolated house 1 kilometer from the beach highway. The


instructor "El Gonfer" got two Zodiak boats from Azmi Zrer, the


Sabra commander, and was made responsible for preparing the boats


with the help of an aide. "El Gonfer" also brought the guns and


the rest of the assault equipment, storing it in the camp near




15 February 1975: This day had been designated as D-day but


because due to the lack of a transport ship the operation was


delayed. That day the administrators of the "El Asifa" (literally,


"the sword") group of Fatah was looking for a ship in Beirut using


an Egyptian intermediary. The Egyptian was an engineer who worked


in a Beirut insurance company and was paid for his role.


16 February 1975: A ship named "Fahree El Deen", belonging to


a Lebanese, was rented in Beirut with its two man crew and an


Egyptian navigator for 1000 Lebanese pounds.


20 February 1975: The group received a very detailed briefing


by "Abu Gihad". Immediately after the briefing, "Abu Gihard"


interviewed each on the 10 men. He asked each of them if they


didn't want to quit and be freed from the mission. After the


private interviews, two of the men were relieved from the mission.


It was later claimed that they had been caught in a homosexual




20-26 February 1975: Training Continued. The groups morale


was considered ver low.


26 February 1975: "Abu Gihard" appeared again and gave an even


more detailed version of the 20 February briefing.


Monday, 3 March 1975: D-1


1200 hours: A message was broguth by Azmi Zrer's driver:


"Today, 1600 departure."


The group then made the last equipment



1630 hours: "Abu Gihad" and Azmi Zrer joined the group.


They proceeded to the beach at Sarafend Base.


That same morning the ship sailed from Beirut and at noon


arrived at the Sidon port. In Sidon, the crew received further


instructions: "Continue south to Sarafend (near Tyre). Be there at


night and signal yourselves."


1800 hours: The group gather on the Sarafend beach dressed

in civilian clothes. The last briefing was

given by "Abu Gihard". The team commanders


were given a list of prisoners and were


instructed to demand their release from


Israeli jails. They were also given


Propaganda papers writted in Hebrew, both


Israeli and Jordanian money, a small


Commercial transistor radio, and a Japanese


Radio for communication with headquarters.

1900 hours: The group and its instructor left the beach

and sailed in their boats to the ship, which


had arrived and signalled.


2000 hours: Loading was completed. This ship departed




Tuesday, 4 March 1975: D-day


0100 hours: The ship changed course from west to

south-southwest. They continued to try to


contact headquarters but failed. A Hebrew


voice was heard on their frequency.


Morning Hrs. "El Gonfer" rehearsed the boat departures from

the ship and discovered that on had a broken


motor. Another attempt was made at contacting


headquarters but also failed. After some


confusion, "El Gonfer" decided that both teams


would go ashore in one boat. The other boat


was cut up and thrown overboard.


1700 hours: The ship reached the boat departure point.


1900 hours: The group launched and motored towards


Tel-Aviv at sixteen knots.


2330 hours: The group landed on the beach and captured the


Savoy Motel within minutes. Three people were


killed, two were hidden in a cabinet, and


eight more were held hostage. Three Israelis


escaped. An IDF soldier was killed preventing


the terrorists from moving to a second




Wednesday, 5 March 1975: D+1


0420 hours: An Israeli Defense Forces unit assaults the


motel. Seven terrorists are killed and one is


captured. Five hostages were freed (including


the couple in the cabinet) and five were


killed by the terrorist during the operation.


Later on the ship and its crew were caught by


the IDF Navy.


E. Training


Military Training


The first session of training for this special mission lasted


about four weeks. It was conducted in Latakia, Syria. In the


mornings, it included two hours of motoring with the rubber boats


with emphasis on compass navigation. During the afternoons, there


were two hours of weapons training and exercises capturing houses


with fighting in built-up areas (urban terrain); during this time,


demolitions was practiced. At night, ideological discussions were


held about the goals of Fatah and the great achievement of becoming


martyrs. These nightly discussions included sessions about the


"crimes of the Zionists."


The second session of the draining was conducted in Sarafend


near Tyre, Lebanon, and lasted about two weeks. Their main efforts


were directed at exercises in built-up areas (urban terrain),


fighting to capture a house using the exact teams that "Abu Gihad"


had designated. Each terrorist was assigned a special task such as


searching rooms, covering the steps, etcetera....Two of the


terrorists received special training in demolitions, including


electric explosives.


F. Psychological Training and Preparation


Beyond the fact that during training the group conducted


ideological discussions with its instructor El Gonfer, it is


important to note that both teams were briefed together by "Abu


Gihad" who gave them a feeling of self-importance regarding their


mission. The exact nature of the mission and its suicide character


were told to the group only in a late stage of their preparation.


On 30 December 1974 before they started training, the group was


told by "Abu Gihad" about a "dangerous mission." The next day,


they met again with him for a more detailed briefing...still no


mention that this was to be a suicide mission. The first time that


it was disclosed that this was a suicide mission was on 20 February


1975 when "Abu Gihad" said: "That is the reason that you were


chosen for that mission--we trust you. The danger will not make


you regret." Before he proceeded with his mission briefing on 20


February 1975, "Abu Giahd" spoke with them about how their mission


would change the political situation in the Middle East. H e gave


them the feeling that they were important and made them proud of


their mission. He described the negotiations between President


Sadat and Prof. Kissinger, mentioning that Kissinger "is a Jew and


does what Israel wants him to do. They will try to bury the


Palestinian problem. If Sadat succeeds, Syria may follow him. We


have to break this conspiracy and you were chosen to fulfill this


holy duty. You will attack the enemy in his heart and prove to the


whole world that no steps will be taken without the Palestinians."


Later on, he interviewed each man personally and asked him if he


regretted being in the mission help was offered to the men's




A code word "sharafe" - "self-pride" in Arabis - was used a lot


during the psychological training. Self-pride is important to


every combatant but sharafe has an especially big role in Arab


tradition. "Abu Gihad" said: "The sharafe will be stronger than


the fear of suicide." Later in the operation we can see several


times when this term drove the group to carry on its mission and


not to give up. During the ship's movement phase, the men were


very quiet, introverted, each one within himself. When they found


that only one rubber boat was left for the mission, few of them


tried to withdraw with excuses such as: "one boat isn't enough" we


won't have the ability to work in two teams." The instructor El


Gonfer played on their sharafe and through that he forced them to


continue on their mission. During the negotiations with the


Israelis, it was suggested that they give up"...and anybody will


get hurt." They refused to surrender and during the assault all


but one of the terrorists were killed. In different terrorist


operations, the men have proven far less decisive.


After the briefings by "Abu Gihad", the group's morale dropped


very low. El Gonfer tried to speak with the group. Rest periods


were abandoned. They were obviously sullen but dangerous.


Training on Treatment of the Hostages


In his 26 February 1975 briefing, "Abu Gihad" emphasized the


brutal treament that he expected for the hostages. "Don't treat


them with comparison. Shoot each one that moves." In execution,


they followed that order, shooting the old man in the reception


room and two other guests, hitting an old French lady on the head.


In conclusion to the training chapter, it is obvious that the


group was provided basic training in boating and weapon fighting.


Their psychological motivation was based on their social


background. In order to secure their devotion to the suicide


mission, they received high level Fatah briefings from "Abu Gihad"


which used the techniques of bringing them gradually into the exact


mission -suicide - so they were accustomed to the atmosphere of


dangerous mission and in the late stage they were informed about


the suicide mission - it was easy for them to accept it - it didn't


come as a big shock. In addition, they were encouraged to


volunteer for the mission. The long briefing of the political


situation and the big change that their mission will do was


important to encourage the team who suffered from personal


inferiority and underestimated themselves. This psychological


training worked well enough; during the tense seige of the motel


they repeatedly stated that they were ready to die; seven out of


eight of them did,


G. Equipment


The equipment required by the group consisted of weapons, food,


first aid, explosives, propaganda and the POW list, money, and


communications gear.


a. Weapons. Each terrorist was armed with the Soviet AK-47


Kalishnikov rifle with six magazines as well as a pistol with a


spare magazine. In addition, the terrorists carried four hand


grenades each and electric demolitions which were used when the


Israeli Defense Forces stormed the motel. The demolitions included


two TNT boxes and detonation cables.


b. Food and First Aid. The group had brought no food with


them. During the negotiations they said that they were very


hungry: "We haven't eaten for three days." During the


negotiations, they also said that they had bandages but when one


was actually wounded, an Israeli woman was treated with a sheet


because there were no bandages. The lack of such basic


preparations certainly increased the stress and feeling of


isolation of the group and was perhaps intentional on the part of


Fatah in order to assure a short suicide mission.


c. Propaganda. The teams were issued propaganda leaflets


written in Hebrew which they dropped outside the Savoy after


seizing it. The propaganda was basically about "the legitimate


fighting of the PLO to free Palestine." In addition, each team


received a list of 20 POW's which was given to the Israelis during




d. Money. The teams were provided with money in both Israeli


pounds and Jordanian dynars for use as required. This is


interesting because it implied that some purchases were possible in


Israel; yet the very nature of the mission made such transactions,


at least in Israel, unlikely.


e. Communications Gear. Each team was issued a radio


transistor radio manufactured in Japan. As far as we know, no plan


for frequency monitoring, stations, or time tables existed. Just


prior to departure from Sarafen, the group was also issued a small


Toshiba brand radio transmitter. They were told that its range was


60 miles, permitting contact with the headquarters during the night


of the attack. No one received any training on this radio.


H. Intelligence Gathering and Deception


There were two main areas for intelligence gathering - the


overall movement to the objective area and the objectives


themselves; in addition, there was the need for operational


deception to cover the penetration into Israel.


a. Movement and Deception. We do not have enough information


to conclude how much the terrorists really knew about the Israeli


sea and beach patrols. They probably had no special efforts aimed


at securing such information. From previous operations, however,


they were aware that such patrols existed; there was no concerted


effort to get exact details of patrolling operations. In order to


deal with the problem of patrolling, the terrorists decided to use


deception: a commercial ship carrying cargo from Limasol, Cyprus,


supposedly bound south enroute to Port Said, Egypt. The ship


hoisted in its sails when within 50 kilometers of Tel-Aviv, using


only its engine in order to keep its visual and radar signatures as


small as possible. This was also the reason for using rubber boats


for the long voyage from the drop point into the beach. This


deception was a success and contrasts with the failure of a


previous mission near Nahariya, Israel, where the sea movement was


discovered by Israeli patrol boats. It was only after the Savoy


operation was over that the mother ship was located and detained by


the Israelis.


b. Intelligence About the Objectives. As described


previously, one of the terrorists, Muhammed Maslaha, had served as


a Fatah agent reconnoitering Tel-Aviv in 1972. He knew the area


and had recommended the choice of objectives. During the 20


February 1975 briefing by "Abu Gihad" a tourist map of Tel-Aviv


with English print data was brought to the group. Only one of the


group could read this map. That is all the intelligence given the


group about their objectives. The group was obviously lacking


critical information: how big were the buildings, how many people


would be there at the time of the attack, what kind of enemy would


they face, and, perhaps most importantly, how were they to get to


the objectives?


c. Covering Story in the Event of Capture. As the end of his


briefing on 26 February 1975, Abu Gihad" emphasized the group's


"covering story" in the event of capture by the Israelis: "If,


unfortunately, one of you will fall as a POW you have to say that


you came from Egypt. We want the Israelis to retaliate against the


Egyptians and not the Lebanese. Maybe this will contribute to the


failure of the negotiations between Israel and Egypt." The rubber


boat that was blown up by a booby trap on the Tel-Aviv beach was


found to be marked with Egyptian markings and colors; apparently,


this was also to support the "made in Egypt" cover story. This


additional deception was poorly planned and would not have


withstood a serious investigation.


I. Comparing the Plan and Execution


We will now compare the operational planning with the way it


was actually conducted. The Savoy operation was executed in four


distanct phases: (a) sea movement to Zodiak boat drop point, (b)


ship-to-shore movement and beach landing, (c) assault and capture


of the objectives, and (d) operations in the objectives.


a.    Sea Movement Phase


Planning Execution


1. Embarkation. Embarkations The ship sailed from Beirut


was to be conducted at night with the at 0800 and arrived as


signalling itself with special lights. Planned off Sarafend. The


The ship would transit from Beirut commando found the ship


during daylight and anchor next to without problems. During


Sarafend. The Zodiak boats would the loading of the boats,


then load on the ship one was hit in its engine,


rendering it inoperable.


There were no spare boats


2. Ship's Movement. The The ship departed Sarafend


course was to head west as if to at 0830 and sailed west


Cyprus and then turn south along until 1300, then turning


the Port Said, Egypt route. Sails south. They arrived at


would be taken in, using engine the drop point at 1700


only, when they were 50 kilometers which was too early, so


off Tel-Aviv. On arrival at the they continued south and


drop point, the boats were to be backtracked for a 1900


debarked and the ship would pro- drop. On debarkation, the


ceed west to Cyprus. Ship sailed to Cyprus.


3. Rehearsal. None During the ship's movement,


planned for debarkation. El Gonfer, who was both


instructor and commander


during movement, ordered


the captain to stop

engines and practice


debarkation just before


1200.    At that point, they


discovered that the damaged


boat was no good. They


removed the engine and cut


the boat up, throwing it


into the sea. This was to


reduce suspicions if they


were stopped by an Israeli


patrol boat. After some


confusion, El Gonger


ordered the mission to con-


tinue with one boat.


4. Communication. The After departure from Sara-


ship's departure was to be radioed fend, they tried to contact


back using a special code on a headquarters but failed


certain frequency. They were surprised to hear


a Hebrew voice on the fre-


quency. Later they tried


again without luck. They


had been given only one




Conclusions from the Sea Movement Phase. The ship's crew was


well trained and had no problems with sailing and navigation. On


the other hand, the terrorists had problems with loading, damaging


the boat, and with communications. Although they eventually


decided to proceed, El Gonfer had to force them after they had


decided to abort the mission. El Gonfer was able to do this by


talking to their Arab pride and hatred of the Jews.


b.    Ship-to-shore Movement Phase


Planning Execution


1. Movement to the Beach. The teams sailed in only


Each team was to motor in one boat. One boat at 16 knots. As


Movement to the shore would take four planned, the trip took


hours. The lighthouses north and about four hours. They


south of Tel-Aviv would assist in landed as planned


navigation to a point ashore between


the lights.


2. Beach Landing. The On landing, they opened


terrorists were to open fire immedi- fire, wounding some


ately on landing and booby trap the civilians on the beach.


boats prior to moving on the objec- The boats were booby


tives. The Israeli security forces trapped and exploded an


were to be surprised by the booby hour later, injuring no


traps. one.


Conclusions from the Ship-to-shore Movement Phase. the


movement and navigation, which wasn't planned to a precise location


on the beach, was conducted well. The penetration of Israel's


coast was covert until landing. The teams followed orders and


booby trapped their only boat.


C. Movement to and Capture of the Objectives


1. Movement on the Objec- On landing they opened fire


tives. Hader's team objective was in all directions. They


the Manshia neighborhood Youth Club, were very excited, rushing


located south of the landing beach. into the first beachside


Hamed's team was to move north of the street. They quickly lost


landing beach and capture the Opera their way and their agent


Building. Muhammed Maslaha, the forgot his directions.


agent who reconnoiterred Tel-Aviv in After a few minutes, they


1972, would direct them to their stopped trying to find the


objectives. In the event that they objectives. They remem-


couldn't locate the objectives, they bered "Abu Gihard's order


were to seize any other buildings to capture any other


including as many hostages as building. They met an


possible. The distance between the Israeli policeman who fired


planned objectives was 150 meters. on them, forcing them to


move on the nearest pop-


ulated building.the


Savoy Motel. Both teams


moved on the one objective.


2. Assualt of the Objec- The terrorists basically


tives. "Abu Gihad" had briefed the followed their planned


teams on capturing the objectives. tactics. They killed an


The teams were to burst through the old man in the reception


door, firing on anyone staying in the room, firing indiscrimi-


reception rooms. Two men were to nately as they searched the


guard the door and the rest would go rooms. Four more people


to the second floor, searching the were killed or wounded, all


rooms and gathering all hostages in civilians, including an old


a single room on the highest floor. lady and a 13 year old boy.


The hostage roon would be booby They gathered the hostages


trapped prior to starting in southwest room on the


negotiations with the Israelis. third floor. Two men


guarded the hostages while


two guarded the roof and


two guarded the entrance


steps. The rest moved


between the third floor and


the roof. The hostages'


room was booby trapped very


late, about 0400.


Conclusions from the Ship-to-shore Movement phase. Criticism


of this phase involves land navigation, individual discipline, fire


control, hostage treatment, and timeliness following orders.


Regarding land navigation, the terrorists made the mistake of


relying on one man who had been in the area three years earlier;


using a tourist map, they immediately became disoriented after


landing and couldn't find their objectives. They had poor


individual discipline, under great personal tension they fired


indiscriminately without the orders of their team commanders.


Their fire discipline itself was poor as they opened fire too


early, warning the police and resulting in a prompt confrontation


near the Savoy; this forced them, again under great stress, to


seize the first populated building without plans for follow-on


objectives. Their brutal treatment of the hostages follows "Abu


Gihad's" order to show no compassion..."if someone moves, shoot


him;" but by this indiscriminate killing, they reduced their


hostages by four. Finally, although they generally followed their


assault tactics, they were late in booby trapping the hostages'


room. In summary, due to bad navigation and stupid shooting, they


missed their objectives, capturing only one building. Later, when


they realized that they only had eight hostages, they tried to move


out of the Savoy but were trapped inside by the fire of a young


solider who live nearby and was home on leave. The soldier was


killed in later fighting. The terrorists prime error was to focus


on killing as many as possible, without realizing that it could get


in the way of capturing hostages and negotiating a POW release.


c.    Operations in the Objectives


Planning Execution


1. Negotiations. "Abu Gihad On landing, they killed the


had given specific direction on how to Israelis as described deal


with the Israeli government. He above. After capturing the


said "it is important to kill a few motel, they used an Israeli


Israelis after landing to demonstrate woman who spoke Arabic as


your sincere goals. After capturing their moderator. This


the hostages, order the Israelis to woman did most of the


free 20 POW's. Their names are on the speaking with the Israelis.


list that you will pass to the The terrorists passed the


Israelis. These POW's they have to POW list along with their


Send in an airplane to Damascus or demand to speak with the


Cairo. Make it clear that if this foreign ambassadors. The


demand is not met, you will blow up Israelis replied that they


the buildings with everyone inside. were complying with the


None of you will fail and become a demand but needed more


POW." After giving the Israelis the time. The terrorists tried


list of POW's, the teams were to to find radio messages by


demand to see the French, U.N. and listening to Arabic and


Vatican ambassadors. They would Hebrew broadcasts but were


Confirm the ambassadors' identities unable to get relevant


with their passports and have them news. They became dis-


escort the departure of the terrorists appointed and felt let


and hostages to the airport. At the down. (Earlier, Israeli


airport, they were to free the Radio had reported about


hostages but keep the ambassadors the operation at 0050


on the flight to Damascus, Cairo hours. At 0100, the PLO


or even Paris. When the ambassadors station from Beirut


arrive at the objectives, they were reported on the mission,


to become the only negotiation moder- dedicating it in retalia-


ators. The terrorists were to give tion for the Israeli April


the Israelis an ultimatum of four 1973, raid on Beirut.) The


hours to bring the ambassadors. terrorists demanded the


release of 20 POW's and

made other propaganda


statements. They gave a 10


hour ultimatum. From time


to time during the


negotiations, the


terrorists said that enough


time had passed and that


they wanted to die.



2. Fighting in the Objec- The terrorists only booby


tives. After four hours of negotia- trapped the hostages' room


tions, they had planned to set the at 0400. four hours after


demolitions and blow themselves and they captured the motel


the hostages up. During the night, there


were exchanges of fire; one


team commander was killed


and the other wounded. One


of the deputy commanders


took charge and acted


aggressively. Suspecting


that the Israeli lady


moderator had told the


authorities which room


they were located in, he


had them moved to another


room. At 0420, Israeli


commandos assaulted and


the room was blown up. All


of the terrorists,


excepting one, were killed.


Conclusions from the Operations in the Objectives Phase. The


terrorists were devoted to their mission, even though they were


late in booby trapping the room and lengthened the ultimatum from


four to ten hours. These deviations can be explained by their


confusion and the fact that the Israelis gave a good explanation of


the need for a delay; the terrorists obviously wanted to give the


negotiations a chance. If the Israelis ahd assaulted earlier, the


late booby trapping would have made the assault easier and perhaps


greatly reduced casualties. The terrorists demonstrated


operational flexibility when they combined teams and shifted


commanders when the original men were taken out of action. Despite


the suicide nature of this mission, it is interesting to note that


a few bullets from one Israeli soldier were sufficient to stop the


terrorists from escaping from the Savoy and capturing a better


objective; this says something about the terrorists individual


bravery. Ultimately though, the terrorists blew themselves up


during the assault by the Israelis. They were devoted to the end,


refusing Israeli suggestions to surrender "peacefully." In some


other "suicide missions, devotion had failed but in this group the


social combination had provided least from "Abu


Gihad's" point of view. Even though the terrorists were listening


for radio news, it is very clear that they gave up trying to


contact their headquarters and fully expected that the end result


would be suicide.


case Tel-Aviv. Once in Tel-Aviv, it is of less importance that the


terrorists capture the planned objectives; it is sufficient that


they capture any objective as long as there are a reasonable number


of hostages.


In order to achieve the first goal of penetration into Israel,


the first phase of the mission must be well planned and


accomplished. With the lower importance assigned to the second


goal of killing and capturing, the effect on the mission planning


was basically just to "get in" and let the attack phase take care


of itself. This certainly makes such an operation much more


flexible for both planning and execution: not a great deal of


detail was required in planning, training, control, and


coordination during the execution phase. If the group was able to


merely penetrate Israel from the sea, they had already succeeded in


large measure. Looking closely at the penetration phase of the


operation, despite the equipment problems with one of the Zodiak


rubber boats along with the communication problems with the radio


transmitter, both the sea movement and the ship-to-shore movement


were accomplished according to the plan. Deception planning for


the ship's transit worked; no one suspected the true purpose of


this "coastal commerce ship". Israeli sea patrols did not


intercept the ship and it arrived at the right spot offshore on


time. This may not seem like a major achievement, but in Israeli


waters it was! On most sea penetration missions prior to the Savoy


operation, Israeli sea patrols had intercepted the terrorists prior


to landing or during crossings which occurred just beyond the


border, interception occurred on the border crossing itself. So,


despite the obviously low navigational abilities of the Savoy group


(remember, they immediately got lost after landing!), it was


sufficient to accomplish the primary goal of getting to Tel-Aviv.


Just as in the case with the ship's transit, this appears to be a


simple matter (i.e. "get in"), but in the 1978 "highway bus"


operation, the terrorists also tried to sea land at Tel-Aviv and


came ashore 40 miles north; even in that mission, the broadest


Fatah goal - penetrating anywhere into Israel - could still be


regarded as successful.


Having achieved the first goal of penetration, accomplishing


the second goal of killing was relatively simple given the beach


landing in a densely populated area. This broaden the target area


enormously so that "every bullet finds its target and even a blind


man becomes a sniper." For this goal, it was not necessary to


seize the planned objectives and, at any rate, the terrorists did


not seize those objectives simply because they got lost. Unlike


well-trained commandoes, the terrorists did not know how to orient


themselves by landmarks and street signs; once off their planned


route, they could not retrace their steps to it. This was probably


inevitable given their lack off training in land navigation in an


urban area as well as the fact that they only had one map, a


tourist map and that one in a foreign language. Their only other


hopes were a good deal of luck and the man who had been in the city


briefly three years prior to the mission. Fortunately for the


people in the Youth Club and the Opera House, the group possessed


neither luck nor a knowledgeable reconnaissance member.


The group demonstrated its low standard of discipline by


opening fire too early and without good reason. This resulted in a


nearly immediate confrontation with Israeli police, further


complicating the group's attempts to find a suitable target. They


were forced to pick a nearby building, the Savoy Motel, which was a


disappointing objective for them ue to its small number of


hostages. So, through poor planning and training for their second


goal, they had already programmed themselves for failure in that


they could not "kill as many as possible" because they could not


find many targets even though they were in the midst of a sea of


people. From earlier comments though, it is evident that the exact


number killed was not a sensitive issue; even in killing only a few


Israelis instead of a few dozen they had achieved their second goal


to a degree. Of course, nowhere yet do we see a goal of


negotiating POW releases...this was never a part of their training,


nor was it well addressed in planning. Perhaps this is because


goals are something that is possible to achieve; negotiations with


the Israelis had proved futile given their policy against it.


The suicide part of the definition of this operation had


significant influence on the entire mission. Suicide is an act


that is done against the most powerful basic natural instinct of


survival. By accepting a suicide mission, a soldier crosses the


line of reasonable fear that normally restricts his actions in a


combat environment; he becomes a war machine, a robot (a recent


movie, Terminator, illustrates this point as a robot is "killed"


several times before his components are crushed out of


electro-mechanical action). To stop the suicide solider you must


kill him. Because of the absolute extremity of the consequences of


suicide missions, a soldier's reasons for volunteering for this


type of mission must be extremely deep emotions or convictions; in


the case of the Savoy mission, it was the group's deep hatred of


the Israelis. The Palestinian terrorists' personal background was


reinforced by long and constant ideological and psychological


education and conditioning. Their decision and actions cannot be


simply explained by strong nationalistic motivations.


Psychological testing of these kinds of individuals reveals deep


personality problems, such as inferiority complexes, which hold the


promise of being surmounted by an operation that will be give that


solider importance and respect, if not a type of immortal fame.


"Abu Gihad" was careful to concentrate on the aspect of importance


and martyrdom during his many briefings to the group and individual


terrorists; in fact, the number of his briefings suggests that he


realized the need for repeated conditioning. The terrorists'


leaders met with them just minutes prior to their final departure,


reemphasizing the political importance of the mission and playing


heavily on the terrorists' sense of sharafe (pride).


The terrorists, including the instructor El Gonfer, were


trained against self-resistance to suicide. During the sea


movement, when it was discovered that one boat was inoperative,


members voiced thoughts of withdrawing; this also happened several


times later when ashore. But, their long education and


conditioning process was quite effective, especially the recent


briefing by "Abu Gihad"; thus, these men drove themselves to


suicide on purpose not out of typical desperation. This has not


always been the case in such operations. On many occasions, groups


gave up and went to prison, especially when they were intercepted


before capturing any hostages. Thus, it seems that hostages tend


to provide the potential suicide killers a tangible object of their


emotions, justifying their sacrifice and giving them motivation to


continue with the mission to its horrible concluion.


As we saw before, a part of the success of the Savoy group was


due to its special social characteristics. Another part of its


success was that it was composed of two four man teams - twice the


usual strength of such operations. There were two teams naturally


because two objectives had been planned. Their numbers increased


the internal group stress factor so that no one individual wanted


to be the first to show his fear and that he had no sharafe. Thus,


the Israelis were confronted with an usually large number of


"fearless" warriors with very flexible objectives.


From a military point of view, suicide missions are


distinguished from common raids due to the dogged determination of


the terrorists and the simplicity of their plans and conduct,


mainly due to the lack of evacuation and withdrawal phases. The


withdrawal phase of typical raids is often the most complicated


part and normally involves a high degree of planning and training


of the unit and any supporting units. A second point is that the


parent terrorist organization, in this case Fatah, has implicitly


placed a higher value on its raiders than on those selected for


suicide missions, knowing that in the end they will be destroyed


(this thought would be shocking for those who have been conditioned


for sharafe in such "important" missions). Therefore, should the


group be intercepted and killed enroute to the objectives on a


suicide mission, Fatah does not consider the mission a disaster,


merely an unfortunate loss of war tools or potential fighters, not


a loss of valuable human lives. As the Fatah radio usually


broadcasts in such instances, "they pave the way for the just


struggle for Palestine." So, such an attitude permits the


terrorist leadership to gamble much more on suicide missions than


it would on other operations. It also permits a broader range of


targets encompassing much higher risks than are acceptable in


routine raiding missions. This, added to the low cost of equipment


associated with such missions (i.e. a few rifles, pistols, radios,


and rubber boats), explains much about the shallow planning and


training for the Savoy operation. Here the high degree of


individual and group motivation and dedication to the cause cover


the large gaps created by lack of skills, careful planning and


training, good equipment, and supporting forces.


The evacuation of the terrorists in the Savoy operation was


evidently not considered a realistic option. This occurred because


of two main reasons. First, Israel had previously demonstrated a


high resistance to any negotiating tactics. Second, withdrawal was


not essential to motivating the terrorists or achieving mission


goals. In the event the terrorists had to blow themselves and


their hostages up, Fatah could and did say that there had been a


"peaceful alternative" that had been rejected by the Israelis.


Thus, the withdrawal plans, such as they were, were merely to give


the group some hope that the Israelis could be forced to release


POW's. This is a very sensitive area for the Fatah because its


terrorists are not religious zealots like the Shiite terrorists.


The mirage of a withdrawal provides the Fatah a means of helping


its people rationalize. Fatah terrorists are less fanatic than


Shiites; for that reason, many suicide teams have not rationalized


suicide and have given up when confronted. It is apparent that


"Abu Gihad" had no real intention to withdraw his troops,


particularly when one considers the type of radio, without either


back-up transmitters or alternate frequencies and totally lacking


in communications training and troubleshooting skills. It is


doubtful that there was anyone listening for the Savoy group on


their assigned channel which was too close to commonly used Israeli


channels to be useful in long range transmissions. Another clue to


Fatah's attitude was the lack of any broadcasts to the group over


the regular Fatah radio, despite the fact that they had been


provided transistor receivers. Thus, when all facts are considered


regarding the sincerity of Fatah's plans for the group's


withdrawal, it is clear that "Abu Gihad" and his superiors wanted


the group dead with the blame on the Israelis for preventing a


"peaceful" solution and no blame cast on Fatah for the killing and


injury of civilians.


The fighters of the Savoy group did demonstrate a relatively


good standard of soldiering despite their poor fire control


discipline. This is not a common feature with other terrorist


groups. As directed, they booby trapped their rubber boat,


destroying their only immediate means of withdrawal. When


disoriented, they did not panic; they showed good flexibility by


changing their objective. Their conduct of the assault on the


objective and subsequent consolidation while holding the hostages


and attempting negotiations was according to their limited training


and planning. Their treatment of the hostages was exactly as they


had been instructed...brutal. The group's action during the


Israeli commando storming of the motel was also "correct;" they


demolished the building, killing themselves and half of the


hostages. This last action was one of the few incidents of its


kind that had worked as planned. The group acted quickly and in a


good soldierly manner when the two team commanders were hit by


Israeli fire; a deputy team commander immediately took charge and


the operation continued. All of the above occurred because "Abu


Gihad" had been careful in selecting a mixture of both experienced


and inexperienced terrorists for the mission.


The factors that have been described in detail all contributed


to the success of the Savoy operation from Fatah's viewpoint.


Fortunately for societies, this group was not representative of


terrorist teams. Unfortunately, the PLO's struggle in the Middle


East as well as the struggles of other terrorist organizations will


not end in the near future. The PLO will continue its raids and


suicide missions even if the ultimate goal of achieving a


Palestinian state seems remote and unlikely.


In the last few years we have also seen the emergence of and


new type of terrorist, the religious zealot whose faith supports


martyrdom for his cause. As we have seen in Iran during its war


with Iraq and, separately, in Lebanon, religious fanatic groups can


sponsor individual terrorist suicide operations (e.g. the truck


bombing of the U.S. Marine Headquarters in 1983), small team


suicide operations, and even operations by large numbers of


suicidal people (e.g. reported use of masses of youths and


untrained personnel exhorted into combat aginst Iraqi troops by


Iranian Revolutionary Guards). This is a new phenomenon. The


world as yet has no effective means of facing and stopping the


earlier forms of terror so this new and apparently more dangerous


from leaves societies extremely vulnerable.


In summary, I wish that I could be more optimistic on this


subject instead of being merely descriptive. There does not seem


to be any ready prescriptions. Sooner or later a terrorist


organization is likely to acquire a nuclear weapon by theft or from


one of the outlaw nations that supports such actions. As the


terrorist must work his craft primarily against people, preferably


defenseless civilians and especially children and women, the use of


threat to use a nuclear device will be directed against a


population center. The more sensitive the area and the greater the


likelihood of access to the media for propagandizing their cause,


the more likely a target becomes. So cities such as Tel-Aviv,


Paris, Rome, New York, and Washington become attractive targets


when their nations oppose the goals of the terrorist organization.


There seems to be no limitation to the madness of human beings when


they define their morality and ethics as simply those things that


further the cause of their ideology, organization, or faith.






1. Golan, Aviezer, The Long Night


2. Amos, Palestinian Resistance


3. Sharabi, Palestinians and Israel


4. O'Nell, Bard E., Armed Struggle in Palestine: A Political Military



5. Chaliand, Palestinian Resistance


6. Dbandt, William B., Palestinian Nationnalism; Its Political and

Military Dimensions


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