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Navy: Unencrypted UAV Signal May Have Caused 1997 Disaster

Navy Commander meets families of 12 soldiers killed 13 years ago in Naval Commando raid on Hizbullah in Lebanon.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/4/2010, 10:15 PM / Last Update: 11/4/2010, 10:04 PM

Flash 90

 

The Commander of the Israel Navy, Major General Eliezer Marom, met on Thursday with the family members of the soldiers who were killed in the 1997 Naval Commando Disaster – a raid on Hizbullah in Lebanon that went terribly wrong. Marom presented the families with the results of a Navy investigation into the incident, which was reopened after recent televised statements by from Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who presented evidence that his organization had advance knowledge of the raid.
 
The Navy's findings appear to corroborate Nasrallah's claim that his terror militia – a puppet of the Iranian regime – was able to intercept signals sent out by Israel Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that conducted reconnaissance over the soldiers' planned route in the five days that preceded the raid. It seems that the UAV's signal was unencrypted and Israel's enemies could therefore see the video being sent out, as it was sent out. 
 
Hizbullah thus gained advance knowledge of the raid and had time to rig powerful explosives at points on the route where they expected the commando soldiers to pass. A force made up of 16 soldiers walked into the ambush and 11 were killed. Four more were injured and only one, the radio operator, was unhurt and called in the rescue force.
 
One member of the rescue team was killed by enemy gunfire.
 
Moshe Rodovsky, whose son Gal was killed in the disastrous operation, told Channel 2 television that Marom had admitted that Hizbullah's video footage was identical to footage transmitted to Israel by the UAVs. 
 
Rodovsky filed a motion to the High Court Thursday demanding that the Defense Minister, the IDF Chief of Staff and the Commander of the Navy hand over to him the full report of the investigative committee that was formed after Nasrallah made his claims in August of this year. He also demands that a new public committee of inquiry be formed to reopen the investigation into the disaster.
 
Four committees of inquiry have already looked into the tragedy but according to Rodovsky, the bereaved parents felt that the truth regarding operational and intelligence failures in the raid had been “whitewashed and hidden.” 
 
The disaster is considered the worst in the history of the Naval Commando, also known as Shayetet 13.