A former senior mossad official has told the Yedioth Ahronoth weekend magazine "7 Days" he was instructed to save the life of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal following an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1996. Mishka Ben David says he had just finished a stint as head of the Mossad's intelligence wing in Jordan when the plan to kill Mashaal was hatched and was about to take a partial study leave of absence when he was asked to play a part in a mission that was to cause one of the deepest Israeli-Jordanian political crises ever. "I was part of a medical team that would treat the members of the hit team in the event they accidentally got hit with the poison," he said. In reality, Ben David was more central to the operation than he lets on, but cannot divulge more information. You didn't mind the poison? Such a terrible way to die, even for someone like Mashaal… "A bullet in the head or a missile in the car would be more humanitarian? I don't think so. Set aside for the moment the fact that my mission was to save lives, not to kill, but that's not the issue here. I also don't know if it's a bad way to die or not. It would have been preferable, of course, if we'd had no need to kill him, but there is no helping that while fighthing the war on terror. "(Then Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu decided on a quiet strike so as not to damage our relations with Jordan. It was a legitimate consideration." What happened after you got to Amman? I was supposed to wait, either for a message that the mission had been completed or for one of our men to come to me for the antidote. Several days passed with no good opportunity to get Mashaal, and when they finally got to him, two of our guys were arrested. The same morning I was in the hotel swimming pool and all of a sudden I saw someone who wouldn't have been there if things had gone according to plan. I could tell by his expression that something had gone dreadfully wrong. Then, I made contact with my superiors in Israel, and they told me to round up the other men from their positions around Amman and get them quickly to the Israeli embassy. Ben David then went back to his hotel, but for him, the drama was just beginning. "I was carrying around the antidote, but I knew I had no use for it anymore. No one had been hit but the target, and he was already in serious condition. I decided to destroy the stuff so I wouldn't be caught with it, but all of a sudden I got a phone call from a superior officer, telling me to go down to the lobby and give it to a Jordanian security officer who was waiting to take the stuff to the hospital. I quickly realized Netanyahu and (former Mossad Chief Danny) Yatom had cut a deal with King Hussein, by which we would save Mashaal's life – he was already unconscious and near death – and Jordan would release our captured agents." It sounds like a horror movie – essentially, you were asked to give yourself up to the Jordanians under a false name, following a failed operation, without knowing how the Jordanians would react to you. "At the time, I didn't see things so dramatically, despite the fact that it's probably the way it was. I understood a deal had been made and that if they were telling me to do this, they probably knew what they were doing." Ben David went down to the lobby, indeed to be met with a stone-faced Jordanian intelligence officer. "I still remember his hostile scowl," he says. "But he also had orders to carry out, and he carried them out."