The Lessons of War Navy Was Warned

Two days into the war, Hezbollah hit the destroyer INS Hanit with a surface-to-sea missile that Iran provided the organization. Four members of the crew were killed and others were injured, while the navy's flagship suffered serious damage. The following day, the head of the navy appointed a committee of inquiry. More than six weeks have past and the war has ended but the public has still not heard the findings of this committee of inquiry.

In an inquiry that we held, it turns out that the intelligence branch at the General Staff had issued a warning to the navy, long before the incident, that it should assume the Hezbollah arsenal contained a Chinese-made C-802 missile. The navy concluded otherwise and rejected the warnings. Because the conclusions of the committee of inquiry have not yet been made public, it is not known whether the above-mentioned incident has been included in the report.

The meeting during which the intelligence warning was made took place on April 21, 2003 in the offices of naval intelligence. The navy personnel were given the intelligence that China had sold Iran a C-802 surface-to-sea missile and that the Iranians carried out improvements to one type of the missile. Intelligence assumed that if the missile was in the Iranian arsenal then Hezbollah was also likely to receive it. The conclusion at intelligence was that unless this conclusion could be firmly discounted, then Israel should carry on under the assumption that Hezbollah had such a missile.

A similar sort of warning was issued by intelligence to the air force over the SA-18, a Russian-made surface-to-air missile. The air force acted accordingly and even though the missile was not fired in Lebanon, the pilots were instructed to operate as if the missile was in the Hezbollah arsenal.

This is not what happened in the navy. They concluded that the Chinese missile that had been sold to Iran was not in Hezbollah's hands. This conclusion proved to be false. To this must be added the neglect to operate one of the warship's significant defensive countermeasures: the Barak anti-missile system. Even though the destroyer entered a war zone and cruised along the Lebanese shores, the crew forgot to turn on the automatic operation system of the Barak. The result was that no effort was made to intercept the Iranian-Chinese missile, and unobstructed it struck its target. It is believed that an Iranian crew launched the missile from the Lebanese shore, or at least was involved in the attack.

Unlike this failure, the navy was successful in deploying the naval commandos in successful raids on the Lebanese shores. The commandos embarked on a series of raids, destroying rocket launchers and other targets. The navy did not carry out major landings of seaborne forces. An American naval source expressed surprise at this.