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Hezbollah Hacked Israeli Military Communications to Devastating Effect

Mideast Wire, a Lebanese compendium of Mideast news sources carries this intriguing story from Al Diyyar about an alleged Israeli government report on Hezbollah’s intelligence successes in penetrating Israeli military intelligence communications. I have not read anything about this in the Israeli press. This, however, would not be surprising since the Israeli media is under a strict censorship regimen when it comes to reporting military intelligence stories.

Anyway, here’s a slightly condensed capsule version of the English language translation of the original Arabic story:

Ad Diyyar, an independent newspaper, reported in its September 20 issue about the preliminary report issued by the Israeli investigative committee into the failures of the June war against Lebanon. The newspaper wrote: “The preliminary report prepared by the fact finding committee…confirmed that the leadership of Hezbollah managed to hack the wireless communications network used by the Israeli army on the front and managed through advanced technology to listen in to the phone calls between the Israeli military intelligence service Aman, the foreign intelligence, the Mosad and their active networks of agents in various areas in Lebanon. The report which was forwarded to the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and the defence minister Amir Peretz pointed out that the Hezbollah engineering units were able to hack into the wireless networks used by the northern front command and listened in to the talk between the soldiers and the officers in the battle zone.”

The newspaper added: “The report…pointed out that these engineering units are very advanced and well trained and their men know the Hebrew language which aided them to carry out their mission [and] contributed in a major way to…failures which [cost] the lives of many soldiers and [which caused other operations [to be aborted]. …Soldiers from the elite Mitkal unit were able to confiscate ‘guidance books’ used by Hezbollah soldiers which include detailed information about the Israeli army and all its units…The guidance books which the soldiers found in one of the Hezbollah positions also contained information on some of the infantry units including ones that are considered secret such as ‘Mbitar’ and ‘Muran’.”

The newspaper continued: “The books included a whole chapter on the Israeli air force and details about the aircraft that it used in the past and is using now. The[y]…contained the names of the aerial units including the new ones such as ‘Tsar’a’ and other information about special units such as ‘Shelwag’ and the mobile antiaircraft unit. The[y]…also contained identification symbols for the wing leader, the pilots and comprehensive information about the pilot-less drones. The books also talked about top secret units subordinated to the military intelligence services Aman…”

The newspaper added: “The books talked about the movement techniques of the infantry brigades and the promotion paths followed by the soldiers and the time they needed as well as the training sessions that they needed to attend as well as the names of the bases which they needed to go to. The books also contained a whole chapter about the weapons used by the Israeli army in the infantry units, the elite units, and the armoured units from the smallest and simplest weapons to the special advanced weapons. The information that Hezbollah managed to gather about the Israeli army points to a detailed and accurate knowledge of the order and hierarchy in the armoured units and the names of the bases, the brigades, and the symbols of the various divisions. According to the report by the Israeli investigative committee, Hezbollah managed to reverse the military formula to an extent that forced the general military leadership in the various Israeli forces to re-evaluate quickly their hierarchy…”

I’ve done some digging and it appears that Newsday may’ve published the original story, which details the devastating consequences for Israeli troops of having their communications systems compromised by enemy forces. It’s eye-opening stuff:

Hezbollah guerrillas were able to hack into Israeli radio communications during last month’s battles in south Lebanon, an intelligence breakthrough that helped them thwart Israeli tank assaults, according to Hezbollah and Lebanese officials.

Using technology most likely supplied by Iran, special Hezbollah teams monitored the constantly changing radio frequencies of Israeli troops on the ground. That gave guerrillas a picture of Israeli movements, casualty reports and supply routes. It also allowed Hezbollah anti-tank units to more effectively target advancing Israeli armor, according to the officials.

“We were able to monitor Israeli communications, and we used this information to adjust our planning,” said a Hezbollah commander involved in the battles, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The official refused to detail how Hezbollah was able to intercept and decipher Israeli transmissions. He acknowledged that guerrillas were not able to hack into Israeli communications around the clock.

The Israeli military refused to comment on whether its radio communications were compromised, citing security concerns. But a former Israeli general, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Hezbollah’s ability to secretly hack into military transmissions had “disastrous” consequences for the Israeli offensive.

“Israel’s military leaders clearly underestimated the enemy and this is just one example,” he said.

This Lebanese general has hit the nail on the head when he says:

“After the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, each side competed to spy on the other,” said Nizar Qader, a retired Lebanese army general who is now an independent military analyst. “This intelligence-gathering was essential to fighting a war … Hezbollah appears to have collected better information than the Israelis.”

…Analysts say Hezbollah used all its capabilities – eavesdropping, anti-tank missiles and guerrilla fighting skills – to maximum effect.

“The information collected by signals intercepts was being used to help direct fighters on the battlefield,” Qader said. “These are tactics of a modern army.”

No shit, Sherlock. After reading this, can anyone doubt that Chief of Staff Halutz should resign his post immediately? But it goes deeper than that. Israel has placed its fate in the hands of its military to the detriment of diplomacy and political negotiation. This egregious intelligence failure should tell us more than that the IDF was overmatched and ill-prepared to fight this war. It should also tell us that the use of military force as a sole policy option is an unmitigated disaster for Israel. Gone are the days when Israel could impose its will on its neigbors through sheer force of arms as in 1967, 1973 or even 1982. It may’ve worked in the past (which is doubtful, but we’ll humor anyone who believes that just for the helluvit), but it no longer does and certainly will not in the future.

Should anyone need further proof they need only look at the Gaza invasion in which the IDF fights a far weaker, more poorly trained and pathetically underarmed opponent. Yet it still has not been able to bring the enemy to heel. If a general such as Moshe Yaalon understands this why can’t Ehud Olmert?

And finally, there are lessons to be learned by the U.S. military here as well. Since Iran supplied the equipment enabling Hezbollah to break the Israeli communications code, I’d bet that the IDF is not the only military force underestimating the Iranian military capability. Would anyone care to doubt that the Iranian military would make a wily and savage opponent should the U.S. use military force against it in a nuclear confrontation?

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