Mossad, or HaMossad leModi'in v'leTafkidim Meyuhadim, in Hebrew, is one of the five major intelligence agencies of the state of Israel. Its headquarters are in Tel Aviv, and while its size is not exactly publicly disclosed, its thought to employ approximately 1,200 employees who are responsible for the nation’s intelligence operations, covert actions and counter terrorism. Many consider Mossad to be the most important part of the state’s intelligence gathering agencies.
Before Israel was established in 1948, the Mossad Le'aliyah Bet was the group responsible for bringing Jewish exiles to Palestine. Their actions were kept secret and their aim was to circumvent the quotas that the British Mandate imposed on immigration to Palestine. When the Jewish state first formed, Reuven Shiloah, Mossad's first director, recommended that a centralized security organization be formed to direct the, until-then, dispersed state security forces. Mossad came into being in December 1949. In 1951, it became part of the prime minister’s office and today the Mossad's director works directly with Israel's Prime Minister.
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Mossad has performed a number of high profile operations in the effort to protect state interests or bring justice to former Nazis and militant Arabs who have perpetrated acts against Israeli nationals. Perhaps the most notable example of Mossad’s overseas operations is the rendition of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1960. Eschewing the need for extradition proceedings, Mossad snatched Eichmann from a bus in Argentina, tried him in an Israeli court and subsequently condemned him to death.
Equally notorious was the Mossad operation entitled "Wrath of God," which was undertaken to exact revenge after the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics by the militant Palestinian group, Black September. The operation sought out the surviving kidnappers and those Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) members believed to be involved in the massacre’s support and financing. This earlier operation and the later, Operation Spring Youth, in Beirut, Lebanon accounted for the lives of scores of Palestinians and Arabs, including Ali Hassan Salameh, Yasser Arafat’s security commander.
There have been ten Mossad directors, with Meir Dagan serving since 2002.