Tunisian party sues Israel over Abu Jihad assassination

Wafa movement seeks justice from a Tunis court following Israel’s admission to the 1988 killing

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Khalil Al-Wazir (photo credit: YouTube image grab)
Khalil Al-Wazir (photo credit: YouTube image grab)

A Tunisian opposition party was to file a lawsuit against Israel on Monday for the assassination of a senior Fatah member in Tunis 24 years ago.

The Wafa movement announced Sunday that it intended to sue Israel in a Tunis court over its involvement in the killing of Fatah official Khalil Al-Wazir, known as Abu Jihad, on April 16, 1988. Wazir was a close aide to PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

Wafa was established as a political party in July 2012, “with the sole objective of realizing the revolution’s objectives: work, liberty and national dignity,” the movement’s website reads. It holds 12 seats out of 217 total in Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly.

Details of Wazir’s assassination in Tunis were revealed last weekend by Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. In 2000, journalist Ronen Bergman conducted an interview with IDF Colonel Nahum Lev — who headed the commando team tasked with killing Wazir and reportedly fired the lethal shots — that revealed mission details previously unknown to the Israeli public. The interview with Lev was held shortly before his death in a motorcycle accident, but was blocked by Israeli censorship.

Wafa spokesman Salim Boukadhir told the German news agency DPA Sunday that his movement’s chairman, Abdul Rauf Al-Ayadi, would file a petition with the prosecutor general against Israel and “anyone else revealed to be involved in the crime.”

Fadira Najjar, an attorney and member of Wafa, told Tunisian television that the assassination was perpetrated on Tunisian soil and is considered a war crime under international law. Najjar claimed that deposed Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Bin Ali colluded with Israel in the killing, along with security officials.

Israel believed Wazir to be one of the main orchestrators of the first intifada which erupted in the West Bank in December 1987.

In the Yedioth Ahronoth interview, Lev revealed that he hid the pistol used in the assassination inside a box of chocolates and described how he had been affected by the sight of Wazir’s wife as she witnessed her husband’s death.

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