Italy to probe claims government enabled 1982 terror attack on Rome synagogue

Member of parliamentary panel that surveys intel agencies says ‘time has come to hear the truth’; documents seem to prove country signed deal with Palestinian terror groups

A March 26, 1986, photo showing an interior view of the Great Synagogue of Rome. (AP Photo/File)
A March 26, 1986, photo showing an interior view of the Great Synagogue of Rome. (AP Photo/File)

An Italian government body that oversees the activities of the country’s intelligence agencies will probe documents published last week that appear to confirm long-held accusations that Italy agreed on a deal not to interfere with Palestinian terror attacks on Jewish targets, including a deadly assault on a Rome synagogue in 1982.

The documents showed that Italian intelligence had clear information on the planned attack on the synagogue, in which a 2-year-old boy was killed, but did not stop it, and police even reduced security around the house of worship.

“Thirty-nine years after the terror attack in the synagogue of Rome, the time has come for us to hear the truth,” Enrico Borghi, a member of the Italian Parliamentary Committee for the Security of the Republic (COPASIR) told the La Repubblica newspaper Thursday.

“A state must fully come to terms with its own history,” Borghi added to the newspaper, as the committee began laying the groundwork ahead of officially probing the recently released documents, Channel 12 news reported, citing Italian media.

The allegations have been known since 2008, when former Italian prime minister and president Francesco Cossiga told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth that Italy had “sold out its Jews” and signed a deal that gave Palestinian terror groups a “free hand” to operate against Jewish and Israeli targets in Italy in exchange for not attacking other Italian interests.

“In exchange for a ‘free hand’ in Italy, the Palestinians ensured the security of our state and [the immunity] of Italian targets outside the country from terrorist attacks. As long as these objectives do not collaborate with Zionism and with the State of Israel,” Cossiga said.

Enrico Borghi in 2016. (Screenshot: Youtube)

At the time, the allegations were strenuously denied in Italy and Cossiga was portrayed as delusional.

On the Shemini Atzeret holiday in 1982, several unidentified gunmen threw hand grenades and fired submachine guns at worshipers leaving the synagogue, killing 2-year-old Stefano Tache and wounding 34 people, including his 4-year-old brother and parents.

According to the documents revealed Friday, Italian internal intelligence, then-known as Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Democratica (SISDE), sent several warnings to the government that groups of Palestinian students “intended” to attack Jewish targets in Rome. At the top of the list of possible targets was the synagogue.

Messages sent by Italian internal intelligence warning that Palestinian groups planned to attack Jewish targets in Rome in 1982. The warnings were ignored (SISDE archives)

A follow-up warning sent to the Italian interior ministry cited a “usually reliable source” as saying the Abu Nidal group planned to carry out an attack during the Jewish holiday period and was likely to hit Jewish sites as the Israeli embassy was too well guarded.

“A usually reliable source reported that Palestinians residing in Europe would be ordered to prepare to carry out a series of attacks on Israeli or European Jewish targets,” the cable warned.

But despite the warnings, not only was security not increased, but on the day of the attack, the police vehicle that usually stood outside the synagogue on holidays was absent, the documents showed.

The attack came in the weeks following the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in a bid to prevent terror attacks by Palestinian factions on northern Israel.

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, right, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat smile during their meeting at the Quirinale Presidential Palace in Rome on Feb.15, 2000. (AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti, files)

In the weeks preceding the attack, Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat had visited Italy, where he was received by the pope, the president and foreign minister and greeted with a standing ovation at a session of the Interparliamentary Union.

According to the reports, the deal with the Palestinians had been signed as far back as 1973 by prime minister Aldo Moro with Arafat’s PLO and George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which promised not to conduct terror attacks on Italian soil in exchange for Italy allegedly pledging its political support for the Palestinians.

On May 9, 1978, Moro’s body was found, riddled by bullets, in the back of a car in the center of historic Rome. He was kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists after a bloody shootout near his home.

The first documents indicating the existence of the deal were uncovered during investigations into the killing of Moro.

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