Rafael, Sylvia (1938–1985)

views updated

Rafael, Sylvia (1938–1985)

Israeli intelligence agent. Name variations: also seen as Raphael. Born in 1938, possibly in South Africa; killed by the PLO in Cyprus in 1985.

At the Munich Olympics in 1972, the Arab terrorist group Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes, 9 of them after a day as hostages. The attack had been planned by Ali Hassan Salameh, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), who was also believed responsible for a number of hijackings and murders. The following year, Mossad, Israel's counter-espionage agency, sent a group of its agents to kill Salameh in Lillehammer, Norway, where he was believed to be hiding. One of these agents was Sylvia Rafael. Rafael and her colleagues mistakenly identified a Moroccan waiter, Ahmed Bouchikhi, as Salameh, and shot him dead in the street in front of his pregnant wife. Some nine agents successfully fled the country, but five were caught, including Rafael, who was carrying a Canadian passport identifying her as Patricia Roxburger. Amid swirling rumors that Norwegian police or members of Norwegian intelligence had assisted the agents, all were tried for the murder and convicted. Rafael, defended by Anneaus Schjodt, one of Norway's top lawyers, received the modest sentence of 5½ years in prison, and served only 22 months before being pardoned and released (as were the other agents). She then married Schjodt.

Described as "chic, attractive," and an "efficient spy," Rafael was greeted warmly upon returning to Israel, and continued to work for Mossad. After several other unsuccessful attempts, Mossad killed Salameh with a car bomb in Beirut in 1979. Six years later, the PLO killed Rafael and two other agents in Cyprus. In 1996, while continuing to deny responsibility, Israel paid an unknown sum of money to Bouchikhi's family as compensation for his murder. After a two-year investigation, in 2000 a government commission determined that Norway had not been involved in the attempted assassination.


Deacon, Richard. Spyclopaedia. London: Futura, 1989. "Norway solves riddle of Mossad killing," in The Guardian. March 2, 2000.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont