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2-year-old died, 34 wounded in assault with grenades, guns

Documents show Italy ignored warnings ahead of 1982 terror attack on Rome synagogue

Uncovered cables seem to confirm reports that Rome signed deal with Palestinian terror groups to ignore attacks against Jews, in exchange for them not hitting other Italian targets

A  March 26, 1986 photo from files showing an interior view of the Great Synagogue of Rome. Pope Francis on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2015 becomes the third pope to visit Rome's main synagogue in a sign of continued Catholic-Jewish friendship that was highlighted by a recent Vatican declaration that it doesn't support official efforts to convert the Jews. But the visit also follows a series of developments that have upset some in the Jewish community, including a new Vatican treaty signed with the "state of Palestine" and Francis' own words and deeds that have been interpreted by some as favoring the Palestinian political cause. (AP Photo/File)
A file March 26, 1986 photo showing an interior view of the Great Synagogue of Rome (AP Photo/File)

Italian media on Friday published documents that appeared to confirm long-held accusations that Italy had agreed on a deal not to interfere with Palestinian terror attacks on Jewish targets and had failed to prevent a 1982 assault on a Rome synagogue in which a 2-year-old boy was killed.

The documents showed that Italian intelligence had clear information on the planned attack on the synagogue but did not stop it, and police even reduced security around the Rome house of worship.

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 allowed 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.

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

However, documents unearthed now by Italian media showed that Italy clearly ignored threats against Jewish and Israeli institutions, particularly in the case of the 1982 attack on the Rome 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)

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.

A follow-up warning sent to the Italian interior ministry cited a “usually reliable source” that 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 usual police vehicle that sat 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.

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.

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)

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 who promised not to conduct terror attacks on Italian soil in exchange for Italy allegedly pledging its political support for the Palestinians.

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

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 shoot-out near his home.

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