A former intelligence official confirmed for the first time that Israel methodically hunted and assassinated PLO leaders responsible for killing 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The assassination campaign was approved by the government of then-Prime Minister Golda Meir, and each individual killing was sanctioned by Israeli leaders, said Aharon Yariv, at the time Meir's adviser on counter-terrorism.Yariv spoke in an interview Monday on Israel's evening news. The interview was taped over a year ago but was withheld until now by Israel's military censor.

Yariv was hospitalized and not available for comment Tuesday, said a woman answering the telephone at this home.

Israel's campaign against Black September, the guerrilla wing of the PLO's mainstream Fatah faction, has been widely written about, but until now Israel never officially confirmed it.

The exact number of assassinations carried out by Israel is not known. Unofficial accounts have attributed at least 12 killings to agents of Israel's Mossad spy agency in the 1970s and '80s.

"Golda (Meir) approved the operations. Her order was to hit targets pointedly as much as pos-sible," Yariv said in Monday's interview.

"The assassinations created a dilemma for Golda," Yariv said. "For her, premeditated killings were not an easy thing. But there was no other way to wipe out terror. We weren't just talking about revenge for Munich. The idea was to wipe out terror, because we couldn't continue living with it."

Yariv said the assassinations, mostly carried out in Europe, angered leaders of otherwise friendly states. Several innocent people were killed in the campaign.