Operation Spring of Youth
Ehud Barak, Commander of Sayeret Matkal during the Operation Spring of Youth in 1973. (Photo: IDF)

Israel’s Military undertook an operation codenamed “Operation Spring of Youth” to retaliate against the cruel event of the Munich Massacre in 1972. It was a part of “Operation Wrath of God.” In 1973, on the late night of 9th April and early morning of 10th April, the operation was executed by Israel raid on Lebanon.

Sayeret Matkal – a unit in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in the Special Forces category, made the operation successful at Beirut, Sidon, and Lebanon. They (IDF Special Forces) had three main targets : 

  1. Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
  2. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
  3. Fatah Headquarters for Gaza operation 

Introduction

Lebanon-based Palestinian terror organization “Black September” made a barbaric event popularly known as the horrifying “Munich Massacre” during the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972 in southern Germany. The terrorist group targeted Israel’s Olympic team members, took them as hostages, and later killed them. 

Operation Spring of Youth

Israel was never going to forget this event. And to avenge this, The IDF Special Forces arrived at the beaches of Lebanon with the help of special speed boats. There, they were assisted with cars and other necessary equipment by the Israeli intelligence group Mossad, which also helped the IDF in extraction after the successful operation.

This operation killed the high-level PLO leaders. The IDF Special Forces made a surprise attack on their home and killed the leaders and other PLO members. Some Lebanese security personnel and civilians were also killed during this operation. 

Background

Ehud Barak was chosen as the commander of the IDF Special Forces unit named “Sayeret Matkal.” By February, IDF successfully gathered all the necessary information (photographs, residence, numbers, ammunition, etc.) Regarding these terrorists, also found three senior PLO leaders and their associates :

Muhammud Youssef Al Najjar ( Abu Youssef)

Muhammud Youssef Al Najjar, also known as Abu Youssef, was one of the Black September terrorist group leaders. The group was involved in the horrifying Munich Massacre in 1972. He used to be the Head of the Lebanese Fatah branch, the Head of the Fatah intelligence organization, and the Head of PLO’s political department.

Kamal Adwan

Kamal Adwan was a PLO chief of operations and was responsible for many armed attacks against Israel. 

Kamal Nasser

Being a poet, Kamal Adwan worked as a PLO spokesman and was an essential member of PLO’s executive committee. 

Operation Spring of Youth
A Sayeret Matkal Operator of Today’s Israel.

Operation Spring of Youth

On 9th April 1937, late at night, the Israeli specially designed navy speed boats set out from Haifa Naval Base along with IDF Special Commandos. To avoid being heard, they turned off the motors of their boats when they were a few hundred meters away from the seashores of Beirut and decided to row the rest of their way towards the sea beach. From here, the actual operation “Spring of Youth” started.  

Raid On PLO

The IDF Special Forces divided themselves into three Sayeret Matkal commando teams and entered targeted buildings. They planted door breachers at the door of the buildings. At the same time, a backup team headed by Ehud Barak was positioned outside to neutralize possible PLO reinforcement and Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

As soon as the door breacher exploded, the IDF commandos broke into the apartments and executed three targets. They collected all possible documents which they could find in a short span of time. 

During this, the backup team led by Barak engaged in a gunfight with some Lebanese ISF gendarmes and PLO reinforcements. Consequently, two Lebanese policemen were killed, and the reinforcements were also beaten up. In the meantime, the Mossad agents extracted the IDFC Commandos team by car from the operation point and drove towards the seashore.

However, on the way, they were also stopped by an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC); fortunately, they successfully skipped that and returned home with their specialized speedboats in Zodiacs. 

Raid on PFLP

During this operation, two special commandos units named Sayeret Matkal and Sayrete Tzanhanim attacked together. The building of a popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was heavily guarded by 100 militants. As the battle started, several militants tried to come to the ground floor from the upper floor of PFLP’s building by using the elevator. But each time, their attempt of descending was wiped out by the IDF commandos waiting near the elevator door.

Even the Israeli special commandos placed large amounts of explosives inside the building to ensure its collapse. When the operation ended, the team leader, Lipkin Shahak, requested the Israeli Air Force for evacuation. The outcome resulted in two Israeli soldiers being found dead, and dozens of PFLP militants were wiped out during the gunfight. 

Raid on Fatah

Like the two above objectives that were very well executed by Israeli elite commandos, the Raid on Fatah was also smoothly attacked by these commandos. They attacked the Fatah headquarters for Gaza operations and a Fatah workshop in Beirut.

The Shayetet 13 naval commandos destroyed a small Fatah bomb factory in north Beirut, and at the same time, the paratroopers attacked and destroyed PLO’s main garage south of Sidon. 

Aftermath

As given above, the operation Spring of Youth was one of the most dangerous secret operations that have ever happened to the world. It was planned by Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad and executed adequately by IDF Special Forces units – Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet 13. Operation Spring of Youth successfully neutralized the three most wanted PLO leaders who caused the Munich Massacre.

 The most significant part of Israeli Special Forces is that the different elite units that participated in this mission were constantly engaged and cooperated for one purpose, i.e., to make the operation Spring of Youth a great success. Their unified dedication, planning, and singular purpose resulted in this remarkable success. 

FAQs

What was Operation Spring of Youth?

Operation Spring of Youth was a military mission conducted by Israel to retaliate against the Munich Massacre, where members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September during the 1972 Summer Olympics.

Who carried out Operation Spring of Youth?

The operation was carried out by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Special Forces units, particularly Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet 13.

What were the main targets of Operation Spring of Youth?

The main targets of the operation were leaders and members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Fatah organization, who were responsible for the Munich Massacre and other attacks against Israel.

When did Operation Spring of Youth take place?

The operation took place late on April 9th and early on April 10th, 1973.

Who were some of the key figures targeted in Operation Spring of Youth?

Some of the key figures targeted were Muhammud Youssef Al Najjar (Abu Youssef), Kamal Adwan, and Kamal Nasser, who were senior leaders within the PLO and associated groups.

How did the IDF Special Forces execute the operation?

The IDF Special Forces used specially designed navy speed boats to approach the shores of Lebanon quietly, then divided into teams to raid different targets simultaneously.

What were the outcomes of Operation Spring of Youth?

The operation successfully neutralized several high-level PLO leaders and militants responsible for the Munich Massacre and other terrorist attacks against Israel.

What role did Mossad play in Operation Spring of Youth?

Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, provided crucial assistance in planning and executing the operation, including gathering intelligence and extracting the IDF Special Forces team after the mission.

Were there any casualties during Operation Spring of Youth?

Yes, there were casualties, including Lebanese security personnel, civilians, and Israeli soldiers. However, the operation achieved its primary objectives of eliminating key PLO targets.

What was the significance of Operation Spring of Youth?

Operation Spring of Youth demonstrated Israel’s determination to retaliate against terrorism and protect its citizens, as well as showcasing the effectiveness of its military and intelligence capabilities.