Written by Sarah Masih
Operation Diamond was put into action for the attainment of the MiG 21 plane.
MiG-21 as photographed at the air force hangar at the base where it was placed.
This dangerous and ambitious mission was planned by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency.
The Mossad is undeniably one of the best and most efficient intelligence agencies in the world.
It is responsible for intelligence collection, analyzing information, and carrying out special secret transactions outside the country. It does so by supervising agents, gathering electronic information, and maintaining intelligence and diplomacy.
Throughout the years, the Mossad was in charge of special duties, such as assassinations of the leaders of terrorist groups, helping Jewish populations around the world, and hunting Nazi war criminals.
“Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety”.
Until 1960, there were no traces of the Mossad. At the beginning of the 1970s, publications were the only clue. Israeli journalists rarely mentioned the Mossad, which helped the organization continue to work in the shadows.
As a secret operation, they worked to defeat enemies of the Israeli and Jewish cultures.
The secrecy of the Mossad missions only makes it more interesting. Failed missions are rarely noticed, but successful ones are often recognized.
The people of Israel have never either confirmed or denied the existence of the Mossad. They don’t really mind if the world thinks of the Mossad as myth or a secret spy organization.
One of Mossad’s most ambitious missions was Operation Diamond.
On August 16, 1966, an Iraqi air-force officer took his plane and delivered it to Israel.
This operation helped both Israel and the United States study the MiG 21 plane, one of the most powerful planes at the time.
They first recruited Adib Hanna, an Egyptian Air Force officer, and offered him a sum of one hundred thousand dollars to fly his MiG 21 plane to Israel.
However, the plan immediately backfired when Hanna reported the operation to the Egyptian authorities. Soon after, Jean Leon Thomas (an officer of Mossad) and his five other accomplices were sentenced to prison.
The second attempt began with Israel locating two more pilots to deliver the planes.
During this operation, some agents realized that the two pilots wouldn’t complete the task, and the pilots were heavily assaulted so that they wouldn’t reveal the plan to authorities.
After their two failed attempts, the Israelis began searching elsewhere.
A new opportunity presented itself in Iraq when Ezra Zelkha, a Jewish trader from Baghdad with contacts to the Iraqi gangland, revealed that a group of 15 Iraqi air force officers would be traveling to the United States.
Iraq became the first Arab country to buy the MiG-21 and other similar planes.
Although all 15 of those officers were trained to fly the MiG 21 only gives pilots were trusted to actually take flight. Munir Refda was one of those pilots.
The Mossad sent a female agent to Iraq to befriend Refda and invite him to meet some Mossad agents.
They offered him a million US dollars, full-time employment, and Israeli citizenship. They also accepted his condition of bringing his entire family to Israel.
An interview with Brig. Gen. (res.) Yesha'ayahu (Shayke) Barkat reveals that he was unsure of Munir’s loyalty. He asked the IAF Commander to fly alongside Munir.
The Mossad thought that Munir simply agreeing to the mission was a part of the master-plan by Iraq. It could all have been a game for Iraq to penetrate the Israeli Air Force.
Once the deal was signed, the Mossad went on to extract Refda’s family from Iraq. His wife, his two kids were picked up via Paris.
Whereas, his parents and other relatives were taken to the Iranian border through which they were transported to Iran and then flown to Israel.
When all doubts were erased, the last and most crucial part of the operation was initiated.
The Mossad had a very interesting way of signaling Radfa, who had returned to Iraq, that they were waiting for his return. Every day, a song in Arabic was aired on The Voice of Israel Radio Station.
The song’s lyrics translated to ‘welcome, welcome, welcome’ For three days straight, the song was broadcasted at a planned hour.
On August 16th, 1966, Refda flew over Jordan and toward Israel with the plane. The Jordanians contacted authorities because they found the activity suspicious.
Perhaps, the Syrians were involved, because they dismissed the Jordanians telling them that it was just a training exercise.
Refda flew to Israel’s border, where he was met by two fighter planes that guided him safely to the landing place.
Iraq actually knew about Israel’s plan. They also knew that Mossad had attempted this mission several times before.
They did not punish any of Refda’s colleagues or bosses, because they knew it had to be done. If this attempt was not successful, the Mossad would keep blackmailing and killing more and more pilots.
After Mossad successfully acquired the MiG-21, it became the Israel's most prized possession.
They trained pilots to fly it and analyzed its design against their own fighter jets.
This came in very handy because during the Six-Day War; Israeli pilots defeated six Syrian MiG-21’s without losing a single plane themselves.
Israel also loaned the MiG-21 to the United States for further evaluation.
Americans were granted permission to fly MiG-17s in Cambodia. They also obtained several other planes, making them capable of training thousands of fleet pilots for the MiG’s.