The mystery behind the 1988 assassination in Tunisia of Palestine Liberation Organization commander Yasser Arafat's top deputy, Abu Jihad, has been solved -- he was killed by an Israeli commando, as widely believed.

Israeli military censors permitted the Yediot Ahronot newspaper to publish an interview with Nahum Lev, the commando who shot Jihad to death in Tunis in April 1988 in a raid at PLO headquarters.

"The intelligence part of the assassination was overseen by the Mossad [Israeli intelligence], and the operational side was carried out by Sayeret Matkal [elite commando unit]," the paper reported.

Lev died in 2000, and his account has never been made public before.

Up until now, Israeli has never officially commented on the PLO official's death. Yediot Ahronot said it engaged in negotiations with military intelligence for six months before receiving clearance to publish the account.

Abu Jihad -- his real name was Khalil al-Wazir -- founded the PLO with Arafat. He was blamed for a number of murderous attacks on Israelis. He played a prominent role in conducting the 1987-1994 intifada uprising against Israel.

"I had read every page of the file on him,” Lev said in the interview. “Abu Jihad was connected to horrific acts against civilians. He was marked for death. I shot him with no hesitation."

Lev said that he and a fellow commando (dressed as a woman) approached the house where the PLO office was located and shot a bodyguard with a silencer. A group of masked commandos then broke inside the villa, finding Abu Jihad upstairs.

"[Another commando] shot Abu Jihad first," Lev said.

"It looked like he was holding a gun. Then I shot him, a long burst, careful not to hurt his wife who showed up. He died. Other combatants confirmed the kill."

A total of 26 Israeli commandos were involved in the operation.

The paper added that another bodyguard and a gardener was killed during the shoot-out, which Lev expressed remorse for.

"It was too bad about the gardener,” he said. “But in operations like this, you have to ensure that all potential resistance is neutralized."