Israel was dealt a harsh blow Friday night when one sailor was killed and three others were declared missing and presumed dead as elite Iranian troops assisted Hizbullah in firing a radar-guided missile at the INS Hanit (Spear) stationed off the Lebanese coast. The C-802 missile struck the ship, part of a larger Israeli naval force laying siege to Lebanon, causing severe damage.
As of Saturday night, one body had been recovered and identified and three were still missing after the attack. The Sa'ar 5-class missile ship returned to the Ashdod port and was said to have sustained damage to its rear hull near the helicopter pad. After being towed from the site of the attack, the ship had its sailing capability restored and made its way to the port under its own power. The navy is investigating the incident.
The body of the recovered sailor was identified as Third Petty Officer Tal Amgar, 21, from Ashdod. The names of the other sailors were also released for publication: L.-Rtg. Shai Atias, 19, from Rishon Lezion; Fourth Petty Officer Yaniv Hershkovitz, 21, from Haifa; and First Petty Officer Dov Shtierenshos, 37, from Karmiel.
The C-802 missiles, a senior Military Intelligence officer said Saturday, were made in China but upgraded by Iran, which had made improvements to the radar-guided system and delivered it to Hizbullah. Senior naval officers admitted Saturday night that they were taken completely by surprise by the missile attack, claiming that they did not know that Hizbullah possessed such advanced capabilities. The missile has a 100-kilometer range.
Until now, Hizbullah has only fired highly inaccurate Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns and cities in northern Israel. The INS Hanit is Israel's most advanced missile ship and boasts an array of Harpoon and Barak anti-missile missiles, along with a system for electronically jamming attacking missiles and other threats.
Officials confirmed that the anti-missile detection systems were not operating at the time of the attack since the navy was apparently unaware that Hizbullah had such capabilities. Hizbullah also has Iranian-made drones, which officials warned could serve as more accurate weapons than missiles when rigged with explosives.
Senior IDF intelligence officials said that Iran had approximately 100 soldiers in Lebanon and that they were assisting Hizbullah in its attacks on Israel.
Rear Admiral Noam Feig, head of Naval Operations, said that the Iranian-made C-802 radar-directed missile had hit the rear of the vessel and had exploded in an area which continued fuel supplies, which started a fire on-board. All crew members worked hard to extinguish the fire before carrying out a head count of sailors. The count showed that one sailor had been confirmed dead, and that three more were missing.
Feig added that another missile had been fired from the Lebanese coast at the same time as the first one. The second missile struck a Cambodian merchant ship sailing 60 km. off the Lebanese coast, sinking the vessel. The 12 Egyptian crew members were rescued by a Turkish ship. Feig also admitted that the navy had not been aware of the C-802 threat in the Lebanese theater and would draw the necessary conclusions.
Amir Mizroch and AP contributed to the report.