Lebanon: The Curse of Ansariyeh Strikes Again

A Lebanese protestor waves the Hezbollah flag and the Palestinian flag during a protest against the ongoing attack on Gaza outside the offices of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Lebanese capital Beirut, on 17 November 2012. (Photo: Anwar Amro)

By: Yahya Dbouk

Published Sunday, November 18, 2012

In an unprecedented move, the Israeli army admitted that the bombs carried by its soldiers in the disastrous 1997 Ansariyeh operation in Lebanon were similar to those used by Lebanese armed groups to make it look as if local parties were behind the operation.

Eleven Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush set up by Hezbollah fighters who were expecting the occupation army to carry out some sort operation near the village of Ansariyeh in southern Lebanon.

It was a humiliating slap in the face for the Israeli military establishment – not only did it lose several members of its elite naval commando unit, Shayetet 13, but it was also forced to admit that Hezbollah succeeded through its own counter-intelligence efforts to learn about the operation in advance.

The new information about the commandos’ explosives came to light following a lawsuit filed by the families of the dead soldiers against the Israeli military. Israel’s Channel 1 revealed that the commandos were carrying rigged explosives on their backs, which were intended to assassinate a Lebanese target.

An Israeli court had ruled three months ago that a family representative would be allowed access to the contents and materials of the investigation carried out after the failed operation.

After the military refused to cooperate, the families agreed to allow the former head of the Mossad, Danny Yatom, to examine the material on their behalf and make relevant evidence available for use in their lawsuit.

According to the channel, “What encouraged the families to revive their legal battle and to take a second look at the investigation conducted after the operation was [Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan] Nasrallah’s revelation that Hezbollah was able to capture images from Israeli drones before and during the Ansariyeh operation, thus allowing the party to prepare a deadly ambush for the Shayetet commandos.”

The channel reported that the explosives that led to the death of the soldiers in Ansariyeh were of three categories: one belonging to Hezbollah and the other two being carried by the commandos.

An officer who examined the bodies, the report continued, found that the kind of shrapnel found lodged in the corpses did not resemble anything used by the Israeli military, and therefore must have been either an enemy bomb, or “a specialized Israeli explosive, used for operational purposes.”

“One of the dominant theories in the army,” the report stated, “points to the possibility that the two bombs were rigged in such a way as to make it appear that the operation was part of an internal Lebanese dispute.”

The families’ lawyer pointed out that four commissions have investigated the “incident,” with each drawing different conclusions.

The first commission claimed that the soldiers fell into a Hezbollah trap, while the second denied it, proposing an alternate theory. The third insisted that Hezbollah had received prior intelligence about the operation, with the fourth disqualifying such a scenario.

For his part, Yatom denounced the way that the Ansariyeh file has been handled, saying, “To this day we have not conducted a proper investigation, which explains why each commission arrived at a different set of conclusions.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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