IDF encrypting drones after Hizbullah accessed footage

Army investigation concludes Hizbullah used footage from IDF drone to plan the 1997 attack in which 11 Israeli commandos were killed.

[illustrative] Israel drone 311 IAF (photo credit: Courtesy: IAF [illustrative])
[illustrative] Israel drone 311 IAF
(photo credit: Courtesy: IAF [illustrative])
The IDF is in the process of encrypting its drones, defense officials said on Wednesday, amid reports that a team of military experts had concluded that Hizbullah succeeded in ambushing a navy commando force in 1997 after intercepting surveillance footage of a planned raid in Lebanon.
In what has been called the “Shayetet Disaster,” 11 commandos from the navy’s Flotilla 13 unit – known as the Shayetet – were killed in the ambush, including the commander of the force, Lt.-Col. Yossi Korakin.
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In August, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah revealed footage from what he claimed was an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that had conducted surveillance over the area that the commandos were supposed to raid in September 1997. The force entered an orchard near the Ansariya Beach, which was full of bombs that exploded.
The IDF established a panel to investigate how and if Hizbullah had prior intelligence about the planned raid. But its assumption was, until recently, that the ambush was random and that Hizbullah did not have prior intelligence about the raid.
After Nasrallah’s press conference, however, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ordered the Navy, Military Intelligence and the IDF’s C4I Directorate to establish a panel of experts to investigate whether the UAV footage presented at the press conference was genuine.
The team, IDF sources said on Wednesday, has yet to submit its final conclusions, but appears to be close to determining that Hizbullah had indeed intercepted the UAV footage and as a result was able to plan the ambush.
The use of an unencrypted UAV in 1997 was likely due to a miscalculation by Israeli intelligence regarding Hizbullah’s technological capabilities.
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the IDF was surprised to discover advanced intelligence-gathering capabilities – supplied by Iran – in Hizbullah command centers scattered throughout southern Lebanon.
The IDF relies heavily on its UAVs and the footage they provide ahead of operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
While it is unclear if Hamas has similar intelligence capabilities, officials said the IDF would not take any risks and planned to only use encrypted drones in future operations.
On Tuesday, the French daily Le Figaro revealed new information on the military wing of Hizbullah’s structural make-up, with details on the Lebanese organization’s 10,000 operatives and arsenal of some 40,000 rockets. The piece also focused on Syria’s role in Hizbullah operations, in both manufacture and transportation of rockets.
Hizbullah has three units dedicated to the transportation and maintenance of its rocket arsenal, according to the French newspaper report, which quoted anonymous officials in the French Defense Ministry and Western intelligence sources.
The unit responsible for transporting weapons from Damascus, Unit 108, received a delivery of Syrian missiles headed to Lebanon in January last year, Le Figaro said. The shipment, which was apparently spotted by US military intelligence, was said to have contained 26 M-6002 missiles with a range of 250 kilometers.
Unit 108’s main barracks are located near Syria’s border with Lebanon, in the Shi’ite town of Doma, the report added, with operatives also positioned within Damascus. The unit has another base next to Damascus Airport, which is vital for the handling of weapon shipments from Iran – Hizbullah’s principal backer.
The French newspaper also revealed that Unit 112 is in charge of transporting missiles, usually by night and towards the end of the month. The weapons are moved using trucks with false number plates, according to the report.
Hizbullah’s Unit 100 allegedly deals with deployment and training, and making sure the missiles reach their final destinations, in various camps located within 150 kilometers from Israel’s northern border. As has been widely reported, Le Figaro noted that Iranian officers are responsible for training Hizbullah fighters.
The report stressed that Hizbullah has now strategically based itself in Syria, and quoted military experts’ speculation that manufacture of Iranian missiles is now being handled there to ease transport.