The history of military intelligence is full of nation’s whose personnel made rash, foolish and careless decisions ending in disaster. Israel has done this. Yesterday, news broke that the CIA allowed two Hezbollah double agents penetrate and roll up its Lebanese spy network, in part because U.S. agents met repeatedly at the same Pizza Hut, using the code word “Pizza” to arrange their rendez vous.
Now comes an exclusive report from an authoritative Israeli source with considerable military experience, that IDF military intelligence (Aman) has out foxed Hezbollah by deliberately crash-landing a booby-trapped Trojan Horse drone in southern Lebanon.
Here is how the incident was reported by an unsuspecting Wall Street Journal reporter:
On a recent Saturday afternoon, a radar operated by French United Nations peacekeepers picked up a pilotless Israeli reconnaissance drone crossing into south Lebanon. It was given no more attention than any of the dozens of other surveillance missions flown by the Israelis in Lebanese airspace each month.
But when the drone passed above Wadi Hojeir, a yawning valley with steep, brush-covered slopes, it abruptly vanished from the radar screen. The startled peacekeepers contacted the Lebanese army, and a search of the rugged valley was conducted in the early-evening gloom. Nothing was found.
No one can recall the last time that an Israeli drone malfunctioned over Lebanon and crashed, and there were no reports of antiaircraft fire. The Israelis have said nothing. Neither has Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and arch foe of Israel. The peacekeeping force is now abuzz.
And now I can tell them what happened. For over a year, Hezbollah has been attempting to discover how to jam the ground signals commanding the drone so as to disable them in flight. When it discovered the downed craft, its operatives must’ve crowed that they’d finally discovered the key to success. This bit of hubris is how Aman drew Hezbollah into its net. Its soldiers dutifully collected the imagined intelligence trophy and brought it to a large weapons depot it controlled in the area. Once inside the arms cache, Aman detonated the drone causing a massive explosion. Here is how the Daily Star described that event:
A huge explosion shook a Hezbollah stronghold near Siddiqin in the southern coastal city of Tyre overnight, a security source told The Daily Star Wednesday. The source said the cause of the blast, which was heard shortly before midnight, could not be determined due to the heavy security blanket by Hezbollah.
Lebanese security forces were unable to access the scene of the explosion after the resistance group set up a security perimeter around the blast site, which is located in a valley called Wadi Al-Jabal al-Kabir between Siddiqin and Deir Ames, the source added. Local media said the explosion likely took place at a Hezbollah arms cache.
Given that Hezbollah is reputed to have many more missiles and more advanced models than it had before the 2006 Lebanon War, we can only imagine how serious this blow will be to the group’s war fighting capability. Hezbollah is known to possess some of the most advanced Iranian rockets (the Zelzal) in anticipation of possible use should Israel attack Iran. Given the size of the explosion, we should expect that a good deal of its weapons cache in the south has been destroyed.
Hezbollah is known for being highly professional and quite crafty in its intelligence capabilities having penetrated the IDF intelligence network in the 2006 war. That’s why I find it almost inexplicable that its fighters wouldn’t have at least considered the craft might be a Trojan Horse. It’s possible that Hezbollah did consider the idea and searched for an explosive charge & didn’t find one. In that case, the IDF must’ve very cleverly concealed it.
At any rate, as soldiers, even brilliant ones, often do, Hezbollah made a fatal error which the IDF exploited. And before Israel’s supporters jump for joy at another Israeli victory in the unending war on terror, remember that in 1999, a Hezbollah cell phone was brought to the vaunted IDF Unit 8200 headquarters for examination. The soldiers preparing to view it joked “If it explodes, we’ll know.” It did indeed explode seriously wounding the two senior Israeli intelligence officers. Not to mention the major amount of egg it splattered on the face of Israel’s renowned intelligence agency.
The moral being, in this dirty game called asymmetrical warfare, you and your enemy circle each other warily seeking to exploit any weakness. And you will make mistakes because you are only human. The fatal assumption is that your opponent is the only dumb one who will make them, and you never will.
An additional embarrassment for Hezbollah is that the destroyed arms cache is located south of the Litani River in a zone which is forbidden to contain any armaments. This means that the group has committed a major violation of the UN ceasefire resolution 1701.
This article appeared in Tikun Olam