Murder of Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon

Murder of Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon
Murder of Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon
Location Southern District
Date February 16, 1989
Death(s) Israeli soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon
Perpetrator(s) Hamas militant squad

The murder of Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon occurred on February 16, 1989, when the two Israeli soldiers Avi Sasportas and Ilan Saadon were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas militants.

The two became the first victims of the newly founded Palestinian militant organization Hamas, founded by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, which shortly before was founded with the aim of kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers for the purpose of future negotiations over the release of Hamas prisoners for their bodies. Ilan Saadon's body was only found in 1996.



In December 1987, with the beginning of the first intifada Hamas was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members and was headed by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Mohammad Taha. Yassin instructed its operatives to kidnap Israeli soldiers and kill them, deliberately so that their bodies would be later on used in negotiations to release Hamas prisoners in held in Israeli prisons.

The abduction mission was carried out by Hamas' 101st squad. The cell was headed by Mohammed Youssef al-Sharatha. The rest of the squad members were Abed Rabo Abu Jose, co-founder of Hamas' military wing, Muhammad Nazim Nasser and Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Avi Sasportas

Sargent Avi Sasportas was born and raised in the city of Ashdod where he lived until his assassination. In his youth he volunteered in the BBYO youth movement and in the Civil Guard. In November 1986 Sasportas joined the IDF and was assigned to the Israeli Special Forces unit Maglan.

on February 16, 1989 Sasportas got on vehicle carrying two Hamas militants, disguised as Israeli ultra orthodox men, whom probably killed him shortly thereafter. Massive searches carried out after Sasportas' body yielded nothing.

Finally, on May 7, 1989, Avi Sasportas's body was found buried in a field near the site in which he was abducted. He was buried soon thereafter in a military cemetery in Ashdod.[1]

Ilan Saadon

Corporal Ilan Saadoun was born and raised in the city of Ashkelon. Three months after his recruitment he was assigned to the The Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun where he conducted various jobs.

On May 3, 1989 Saadoun was given a short vacation from the military. Saadoun and his friend made their way back home, hitchhiking from Latrun towards their homes, and they arrived together at the Masmiya intersection.

At 19:30 a white Subaru car with Israeli license plates stopped at a hitchhiking stop. Mahmoud Naser and Mohammad sat in the vehicle disguised as Israeli ultra orthodox men and invited the soldiers to join them on a ride towards Ashkelon. Only Saadoun got on the car, since the back seat was loaded with equipment and therefore only one additional passenger could fit in the car.

The hijackers initially planned to drive Saadon to the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, but after seeing an IDF patrol on their way they changed their direction and drove towards Palmachim. During the ride the kidnappers struggled with Saadoun and shot him in the head. The attackers ended up burying Saadon's body in the Palmachim scrap site.


On May 5, two days after the murder, Saadon was declared absent. That same day the white Subaru was found abandoned in an orchard near Beit Lahiya. Investigators discovered a large blood stain in the car as well as Saadon's fingerprints. As a result extensive searches were conducted but they produced nothing. A month later the searches were halted.

A month after the abduction, a large campaign of arrests was conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip. Among the 650 Hamas members that were arrested was the squad commander Mohammed Youssef al-Sharatha. During theur interrogation, al-Sharatha and Ahmed Yassin claimed they did not know where the body of Saadoun was buried. The other squad members were able to flee the country, carrying with them several personal items belonging to Saadoun. The three passed through the Rafah crossing into Egypt, and from there Nasser and al-Mabhouh continued to Dubai.

During the following years, when ever new bits of information or speculations were reveled, targeted searches were conducted with the aim of finding the body of Saadoun. In addition, through the years, Saadon's family members also independently conducted searches after his body. Saadon's family members even visited Yassin in Israeli prison in an attempt to get new information on the whereabouts of Ilan Saadon. Over the years there were various allegations made by various organizations claiming that they were holding Saadon alive and that he would be returned in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners – these organizations even presented the dog tag of Saadon as evidence. Nevertheless, these claims turned out eventually to be false.

After the Oslo Accords, PA officials attempted to locate the burial place of Ilan Saadon. In the Spring of 1996 Muhammad Nasser drew two maps that lead the Israeli investigators to Saadon's grave. The information was passed through to the Israeli investigators through PA leader Yasser Arafat.

According to maps Saadoun was buried in the Palmahim area, between the Park-Rave Interchange and moshav Gan Sorek. Nevertheless, in the seven years that passed since the murder, major construction took place in that area. The investigators team compared the maps drawn with aerial photos taken during the period of the murder and managed to mark a number of possible sites in which Saadon was buried. The first excavations on did produce anything and the only site which was left unchecked was a site which was covered with a newely paved road. The team then were assisted by additional photographs, advanced instruments and interviews with designers and builders of the road and managed to set a new approximate location of the burial site of Ilan Saadon.

In order to make it possible to conduct excavations on the road section, a new road was paved to bypass around the suspicious section. After over a month of carefully conducted excevations, at noon of August 11, 1996 the remains of Ilan Saadon were found.

Saadon funeral was held on August 12, 1996 and he was buried at the military cemetery in Ashkelon.


Ahmed Yassin, whom was arrested by the Israeli forces shortly after the kidnapping of Ilan Saadon, was convicted of offenses related to the kidnapping and the murder of Sasportas and Saadoun and was sentenced to life imprisonment and additional 15 years imprisonment. Nevertheless in 1997 Yassin was released from Israeli prison as part of an arrangement with Jordan following the failed assassination attempt of Khaled Mashal. Immediately after his release from Israeli prison Yasin resumed his calls for attacks on Israel, using tactics including suicide bombings, thus violating the condition of his release.[2] According to IDF and Shin Bet reports Yassin was involved in the planning of terror attacks at the operational level. As a result, on March 22, 2004, Yassin was killed in an Israeli targeted assassination.

Salah Shehadeh was released from Israeli prison in 2000 and became commander of the Hamas military wing in Gaza. On July 22, 2002 Shehadeh was killed in an Israeli targeted assassination in which an Israel F-16 bombed his house located in a residential neighborhood in Gaza. Shehadeh was killed at the bombing together with his assistant and another 14 people, including his wife and one of his daughters, as well as women and children.

Mohammed Youssef al-Sharatha, the commander of the militant squad, was caught a month after the kidnapping and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Over the years, Hamas sought to release him in a prisoner swap deal in return for Gilad Shalit. The family of Ilan Saadon expressed strong opposition to this option, but in 2011 it was decided that he would be released as part of Shalit prisoner swap deal.

On November 19, 2001 a Golani force captured the squad member Abed-Rabo Abu Jose in the Sg'aih neighborhood in Gaza.

The squad member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was assassinated in Dubai on January 20, 2010.[3] According to a Hamas statement, Al-Mabhouh was involved in the 1989 abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa'adon, whose murders he celebrated by standing on one of the corpses.[4][5] In a video taped two weeks before his death, and broadcast on Al-Jazeera in early February, 2010, Mabhouh admitted his involvement, saying he had disguised himself as an Orthodox Jew.[6][7]

Sharatha's release

On 18 October 2011 Muhammad Yussuf Hassan al-Sharatha, whom was originally sentenced to 3 life sentences, was released to Gaza as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.[8]


External links

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