Days of Palestine – Ramallah
British documents revealed a crisis that erupted between “Israel” and Norway in 1973 after the Israeli intelligence service “Mossad” on July 21 of the same year committed a mistake by its agents in Europe to assassinate a Moroccan waiter working in a restaurant, thinking that he was the Palestinian activist Hassan Salameh, one of the most prominent Palestinian leaders.
The documents described the assassination as a scandal that ignited a muffled crisis between Norway and “Israel”, and raised great alarm in Europe over the Israeli “terrorist reprisals” against Arab and Palestinian activists in the countries of the continent.
According to the documents, an Israeli assassination squad killed a young Moroccan named Ahmed Bouchikhi, a waiter working in a restaurant in the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer, mistaking him for the Palestinian activist Hassan Salameh, one of the most prominent Palestinian leaders.
This squad was formed to carry out a series of intelligence operations called “God’s Wrath” and approved at the time by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.
According to the documents, the failed operation in Willhammer cast a dark shadow on the good relations between Israel and Norway.
The documents say that members of the Israeli assassination squad were arrested, but two of them hid in the apartment of the Israeli embassy security official in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, and the Norwegian police entered the apartment and arrested them. The government later expelled the embassy’s security official from Norway.
According to the documents, “Israel” legally and diplomatically protested that the Norwegian police were not entitled to enter the apartment because the owner enjoys diplomatic immunity, which Norway rejected, according to the documents, as it said that its national law does not allow the “abuse” of the owner of diplomatic immunity.
According to the documents, the promotional Supreme Court later ruled that the diplomat had no right to abuse immunity in breach of Norwegian law, and ruled that the two Israeli agents, who were arrested from the Israeli diplomat’s apartment, continue to be detained.
The documents said that despite Israel’s attempts after the failure of the operation to remove suspicion from it, the General Department of Legal Affairs of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry informed the British ambassador at the time of Israel’s recognition of the Norwegians that it was behind the operation.
According to the documents, the acting head of the administration told the British ambassador that the Israelis “defended by saying that their act of this kind was justified,” but he described this defense as “totally unacceptable to the Norwegians.”
According to the documents, the Norwegian official himself indicated that the Norwegian authorities are satisfied that the operation was officially planned by Israeli officials.
The documents said that British newspapers published at the time media-promoted reports in Norway that the one who carried out the Lillehammer operation was an unofficial execution squad called “The Wrath of God” infiltrated by official Israeli agents.
However, the Norwegian legal official completely refuted these reports and believed that they were disinformation by the Israelis.
The documents said that after a criminal trial, the Norwegian Supreme Court convicted five Israelis of participating in the operation and sentenced them to prison terms, but they served only part of it and then were pardoned.
The documents reveal that this failed episode of the series of “Wrath of God” operations has caused great concern in Europe, especially in Italy, France, and Britain.
According to the documents, days after the operation, the Italian and French charge d’affaires informed their British counterparts in Israel of “the concern of their governments over the way in which Israeli and Arab guerrillas are using the two countries’ territories in their mutual secret war.”
With regard to Israel, the main Italian objection was the “lack of care” of its intelligence in carrying out operations targeting Arabs in Italy and Europe.
Reports also revealed that the British Chargé d’Affairs also submitted an informal protest to the Israeli Foreign Ministry about the matter.
According to a report by the British Chargé d’Affairs, his Italian counterpart submitted an informal protest to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
The documents say that “Israel” responded to these protests that it sees itself motivated to implement the law itself in self-defense after it saw the leniency of European governments to a large extent in its dealings with the Arab guerrillas it arrests.
Years later, after the storm of the Lillehammer scandal seemed to have subsided, the British ambassador to Oslo wrote to his government confirming the existence of a “crisis in relations between Israel and Norway”.
This was followed by a telegram from the British ambassador to Tel Aviv saying that “it is clear that the case is a source of great embarrassment for the Israeli government.”
The documents said that Israel continued to evade responsibility for the killing of the Moroccan young man, until its government, led by Shimon Peres, after 23 years, was forced to pay compensation worth more than a quarter of a million dollars to the Bouchikhi family for killing their breadwinner by mistake, as part of a settlement concluded in February 1996.
According to the documents, it was the first case of its kind for which Israel was held responsible, although it did not directly apologize for its implementation.
Norway reopened the case in 1990 and, in 1998, issued a global warrant for the arrest of Mike Harari, who was believed to be the leader of the hit squad, but the Norwegian authorities closed the file the following year, saying it would be impossible to obtain a verdict.
According to the documents, in March 2000, a two-year investigation by a Norwegian national commission concluded that Operation Lillehammer “was a violation of Norway’s sovereignty and a private case in every sense of the word”.
The investigation cleared the Norwegian police of the suspicion of conspiring with the Israelis in carrying out the failed operation.
The commission’s report said that approximately nine of those who participated in the operation had escaped from Norway, including Harari, the leader of the assassination team.
The documents revealed that Norway did little to catch the suspects later, as the report said, “It is clear that the Norwegian authorities were under pressure.”