This question is both historical and chemistry-related, but I'm posting it here because I am more interested in the chemical part:

In 1997, Israel tried to assassinate Khaled Mashal, a high-rank official of Hamas. This was to be done using an extremely potent poison that was supposed to be sprayed on him topically and kill him within a few days without a trace (a "quiet" murder).

I searched for the name of this poison, but I was only able to find out that it was a modified version of the drug Fentanyl (here, page 16). It was probably an internal formulation of the Mossad, but I was wondering if the formula was ever publicly released or if anyone knows how Fentanyl's structure was modified in order to make it so deadly upon contact.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know which analog was used for the assassination attempt. However, regarding your last question, there are fentanyl analogs 100x the potency of fentanyl itself, which is basically due to increased lipophilicity, allowing more efficient transfer to the CNS. All fentanyl analogs readily cross into the blood stream transdermally. Just some tidbits, sorry I don't have a full answer (it does seem surprisingly hard to find). $\endgroup$
    – airhuff
    Jul 26 '17 at 20:37

According to several sources online the chemical weapon used in the failed assissination of Mashal was levofentanyl.

This Wikipedia article states:

On September 25, 1997, Mashal was injected in the ear with a toxin (thought to have been a derivative of the synthetic opiate Fentanyl called Levofentanyl).

Another source reads:

In September 1997, an Israeli hit squad was sent to Amman to assassinate Khalid Mishal, the Hamas leader. The chosen instrument was levofentanyl, a deadly poison that leaves no traces and produces effects like a heart attack. It was administered by a slight physical touch.

And another:

...The agents entered the city using Canadian passports and waited for Mashal at his office. As he was entering, one agent injected a chemically modified toxin called levofentanyl into his left ear.

Concerning the structure I don't think it was ever publicised considering the case was high profile (perhaps all traces were taken offline or can be found in deep when-no one knows)

I've been trying to figure out how fentanyl could have been modified, but have no clue either.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Levofentanyl sounds like it's simply one enantiomer of fentanyl (see e.g. levocetirizine) but just a guess on my part. $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol
    Jul 26 '17 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ @orthocresol Pretty much like it, I think it was one enantiomer of fentanyl which was lethal $\endgroup$ Jul 27 '17 at 5:47

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