‘Spy Ops’ Episode 5 Recap: What is Black September? Was Operation Wrath Of God A Success?

Spy Ops Episode 4 was about all the conspiracy theories revolving around the unsuccessful attempt made on kill Pope John Paul II’s life. There is still no conclusive ending to this story, even though there were many avenues that allowed the intelligence agencies to find answers. Spy Ops Episode 5 is about the most daring intelligence agency that ever existed. No spy operation documentary series is complete without mentioning some of the most audacious rescue attempts made by Mossad agents of Israel. This episode focuses on the operation carried out by Israeli intelligence to locate and kill the members of the terrorist outfit Black September.


What happened at the 1972 Munich Olympics?

Spy Ops Episode 5 begins with the terrifying footage of the Palestinian terrorists of the group Black September holding the Israeli contingent of athletes hostage at the Munich Olympics. We get to see testimony given by a former Israeli swimming champion who talks about witnessing the deaths of his peers. He was one of the few athletes who survived this horrifying ordeal. Spy Ops Episode 5 brings in experts from Israel and Palestine to help us understand the volatile politics of these conflicting nations.

Germany was hosting the Olympics for the first time since 1936. This time around, they wanted to project the image of a happy event, unlike in 1936, when the event was inaugurated by Adolf Hitler. Israel was unsure if they should send their contingent, but as a new country, the Israeli government decided to send athletes. There was looming tension surrounding the athletes who were being sent to a country that was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews deaths. Israel’s predicament is palpable because they were seeking representation on the world stage.


Palestinians, on the other hand, were not allowed to represent their country as it was not a recognized state. This could have been the reason the terrorists held the entire Israeli contingent hostage. As stated by the speakers in Spy Ops Episode 5, the Germans provided no security for the Olympic Village. They believed nothing could go wrong, as the whole point of the Olympics was to bring the world together.

As the hostage drama unfolded, the Munich police were clueless right from the beginning. We assume the German police were not equipped with weapons that could help them tackle the terrorists effectively. Knowing their drawbacks, Germany turned down the offer provided by the Israelis, who had previously dealt with many hostage situations involving their citizens. The Germans were egoistical, but their temperament could cost Israel their entire contingent.


Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was known for her policy of not negotiating with terrorists, which is why rescuing the hostages was the only option. Mossad Chief Zvi Zamir was in Munich to witness the plan to rescue his team, which he initially approved of. But things went south rather quickly when the terrorists got a whiff of the trap set up by the Germans and blew up the chopper that had the athletes tied to the seats, killing all hostages. This event collectively sent Israel and the world into shock. We assume this was the intention of Black September as well, to send out a message to Israel, a state they consider is forcefully occupying their land. Spy Ops Episode 5 also sheds light on the politics of Israel. Israel is a tiny nation, and they would do anything in their power to survive in a region that has remained volatile for many years. Their war with Palestine sympathizers and Black September supporters had just begun.

What is Black September?

Black September is a terrorist organization that is claimed to be linked to the Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat’s party, the Palestine Liberation Organization, aka PLO. Many experts in the documentary claim that Black September is a deep underground militia filled with exclusive members who are also part of the PLO. They aim to unleash violence to put across their demands. They took responsibility for the Munich Massacre to gather attention and hoped Israel would oblige to their demand of releasing 250 Palestinians from prison. Israel eventually got hold of the names of all the members who were responsible for the planning of this deadly incident. Ten conspirators in the attack were identified, and thus began the Mossad’s hunt to eliminate all of them.


What was Israel’s plan?

The Israeli government and their intelligence agency were quick to identify the men, who were at that point living in different cities across Europe. Their only plan was to eliminate the said people one by one and not cause any collateral damage in that process. The makers did not clarify how the Mossad located the conspirators. We can only assume that Mossad’s networks are strong, which allowed them to locate and go after these terrorists. We get to see Palestinian speakers discuss how Black September does not represent their ideology.

PM Golda Meir was previously known for not neutralizing enemies in countries that are Israel’s allies, but for the first time, she gave full permission to execute each terrorist hiding in Europe while they instigated young minds to take up arms. This led to the formation of “Operation Wrath of God.” The terrorists and the men who conspired in this massacre killed innocent athletes in the name of the God who was guiding them to fight for Palestine. Such horrendous acts of crime will unleash the wrath of God on them. Israelis also take their faith seriously, which is why killing their men was equivalent to hurting their faith and God.


The first member of the Black September to be eliminated was Abdel Wael Zwaiter in Rome, who was killed inside his apartment building. The Mossad team made sure their next target, Mahmoud Hamshari’s wife and kid, were not harmed in their quest for revenge. It seems like a logical reason because their fight was with Hamshari. The Mossad steered clear of drawing unnecessary attention towards themselves by killing too many people around their target. Their MO has always focused on ensuring there are minimal casualties. Hamshari was approached by a Mossad agent posing as a journalist to lure him out of his house in Paris. They killed him by placing a bomb right below his telephone at home.

The other remaining members were neutralized one by one, most brutally. Mossad, being on a rampage, surprisingly did not alert the PLO or the Black September leadership that Israel meant business at this point. They were unstoppable because they worked very hard to unearth every tiny detail about the co-conspirators who mercilessly killed innocent people at a peaceful event.


Was Operation Wrath of God a success?

Most of the co-conspirators of the Munich massacre were hunted and killed by the Israeli intelligence, which sent shockwaves throughout the Arab world and the West about the ruthlessness with which they carried out their mission. Despite the partial success of ‘Operation Wrath of God,’ the Mossad could not locate and eliminate Ali Hassan Salameh.

After hearing about the series of deaths of the co-conspirators, Ali Hassan Salameh probably stayed ten steps ahead of Israel’s intelligence operatives. They tried to locate him in Beirut, Lebanon, but the man was a ghost who could not be nailed down. Ali Hassan Salameh was close to Yasser Arafat, and he was in many pictures of the PLO leadership, but it remains a mystery how he managed to sneak away. Part II of the episode ‘Operation Wrath of God’ will further discuss Ali Hassan Salameh, the strained relations between Israel and Palestine, and the hope that there will be an end to this bloodshed.


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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