JERUSALEM (AP by Gwen Ackerman, 4 July) - Israeli opposition leader Ehud Barak led a seaborne command center that oversaw the 1988 assassination of the PLO's military chief, a newspaper reported today.
The revelation came in a Maariv newspaper report on the execution of Khalil al-Wazir, who Israel believes coordinated the start of the 1987-93 Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from PLO headquarters in Tunis.
Israel has never taken responsibility for the killing of al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad. Government spokesman Moshe Fogel and aides to Barak declined comment Thursday.
The paper said Barak, who was then deputy military chief, coordinated the planning by the Mossad, the army's intelligence branch; the air force; navy; and elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit.
He ran the assassination operation from a command center on a navy missile boat off the shore of Tunis, Maariv said.
Last month, Barak was elected to head the dovish Labor Party. He leads Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the polls and could be the next Israeli leader to negotiate with the Palestinians. Barak is Israel's most decorated soldier.
Al-Wazir was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's closest aide and the No. 2 man in the PLO's main Fatah faction. As head of PLO military operations, he was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis, Maariv said. He was 51 when he was killed.
His widow, Intissar al-Wazir, is now welfare minister in Arafat's autonomy government in the West Bank and Gaza.
Maariv said Mossad intelligence agents watched al-Wazir's home for months before the April 15, 1988, raid in which an Israeli officer shot the PLO official at his home.
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