(photo credit: Bilal Hussein/AP)
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah revisited the 1997 navy commando disaster, in
which 12 IDF soldiers were killed by explosives while on a mission in Lebanon,
during a televised speech on Monday evening.
The commandos stepped on
explosives planted by Hizbullah, leading to the high number of casualties in the
early morning hours of September 5, 1997, in Ansariya.
During his speech,
Nasrallah said his organization knew of the position of the commandos in advance
thanks to the interception of unencrypted video footage broadcast by Israeli
drones that were hovering over the area in the days before the
“We knew in advance, and prepared the ambush... the spy planes
hovered and sent live pictures to a control room in occupied Palestine. The
brothers accessed this broadcast and the pictures arrived in a control room of
the resistance [Hizbullah],” Nasrallah said, according to an Army Radio
translation of his speech.
Nasrallah also presented additional footage
during his address, which he claimed was intercepted from Israeli UAVs, and
attempted to present them as evidence of Israeli preparations to kill former
Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
Claims that Hizbullah
intercepted classified footage, leading to the deadly attack on the commandos,
have appeared before. In 2003, Nasrallah’s deputy, Naim Qassem, made similar
claims in a book he published.
“Clearly, he’s under pressure from the
[UN’s] Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” said Ely Karmon, a senior scholar at the
Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
Lebanese civil war caused by the tribunal would upset Iranian designs to use
Hizbullah to provoke Israel and create a major regional conflict, thereby
diverting attention away from Teheran’s nuclear program, Karmon told The
“I believe Iran is planning a provocation that is
designed to cause a regional war, without participating in it directly. A
conflict sparked by the international tribunal would be based on an
anti-Hizbullah development, and could undermine the whole region. This would
upset Iran’s plans. If the Tribunal accuses Hizbullah of Hariri’s murder, and
this leads to a civil war in Lebanon, this would not suit Iran and Hizbullah,”
“Nasrallah is trying to build up a case and sell it to the
This is a show for domestic consumption. He is scared of
a civil war,” Karmon added.
Nasrallah’s comments also sparked a lively
exchange on Army Radio on Monday morning. Amir Raparport, a senior military
correspondent and a researcher for the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
at Bar-Ilan University, told Army Radio that Nasrallah’s account of what took
place during the mission was largely accurate, though some details were
“The technology for encrypting broadcasts already existed
[in 1997], but UAVs that had those abilities were reserved for the Sayeret
Matkal unit, which is part of the Army’s Military Intelligence Directorate,” he
“Encryption capabilities were not available to the navy commandos
because of a lack of coordination...
Hizbullah was able to draw
conclusions from the intercepted images... and plant explosives in the area,”
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former head of the IDF’s
Research and Assessment Division, who was military secretary to former
minister Yitzhak Mordechai in 1997, disputed Rapaport’s comments,
new capability enters the army in this way. It is invested where it is
needed. Then, it is made available to others.
“The State of Israel is not
wealthy enough to give everything to everyone,” he said.
Hizbullah’s position in Lebanon, Amidror said, “Nasrallah’s problem is
knows that his people killed Hariri. He knows that the tribunal knows.
the orders... Hence, he is worried... and now he has to lie.”