Every time an assassination is attributed to the Mossad, the foreign media pulls out the name Kidon. This is the name of the Mossad unit which, according to these media sources, handles such operations.
It should be noted that some of these reports are based on highly dubious sources, like British journalist Gordon Thomas. Among the many questionable allegations Thomas has published are that the Mossad sent Monica Lewinsky to entrap Bill Clinton in order to get the U.S. president out of the White House; that it murdered British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell; and that it was involved in the death of Britain's Princess Diana and her Egyptian lover, Dodi Al Fayed.
Therefore, the reports now flooding the media should be treated with caution - though there have also been some that are more serious, like those of Israeli journalist Aaron Klein and of Ian Black, a journalist with The Guardian.
Reliable or not, here is what these reports say. First of all, that Kidon is a unit attached to the Mossad's operational division, known as Caesarea.
Some even say it is essentially a mini-Mossad within the Mossad. Compartmentalization, which is strict throughout the Mossad, is absolute with regard to Kidon.
Kidon consists of a few dozen men and women who undergo rigorous training in a wide variety of fields, from standard intelligence tactics - like tailing others and avoiding being tailed; to more specialized matters - like unarmed combat, weapons training, explosives and even proficiency in driving different types of vehicles, including motorcycles. None of this, however, is necessarily unique: CIA operatives, for instance, undergo training no less rigorous.
Some reports say that Kidon operatives work in small teams. They are employed on contracts that run for only a few years, but can also last longer; the short terms stem in part from the enormous tension and danger of the job, which can presumably affect the operatives' functioning. As with all other Mossad employees, psychological counseling is at their disposal, but in Kidon, psychological oversight is even more strict.
The media attribute numerous assassinations to the Mossad in general and Kidon in particular, but the truth is very different. In reality, assassinations are rare. According to the foreign media, the Mossad either has killed or has tried to kill the following people over the last 14 years: Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki in Malta in 1995; the head of Hamas' political wing, Khaled Meshal, in Jordan in 1997 (which failed); a few Hamas operatives in Syria; and Hezbollah's "defense minister," Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus in 2008.
If there are any other assassinations that the public does not know about, they are presumably few in number.
Among other reasons, assassinations are few and far between because any such operation requires very careful planning, and it can take years before conditions are ripe.
In the meantime, therefore, Kidon operatives also take part in other undercover activity aimed at furthering the Mossad's primary mission.