It’s a bird…It’s a plane…It’s the soldier that never dies

July 14, 2023

Source: Al Mayadeen English

The Palestinian Resistance dared the Israeli occupation army to declare its confirmed losses, whether killed or injured. 

By Rasha Reslan

A series of accidental- and unbelievable deaths of Israeli occupation soldiers paint a clear picture of “Israel’s” greatest nightmare coming to life.

The Israeli army is known for many things, sure some of them, if not most, include brutality, murder, and extrajudicial killings, but one must give credit where credit is due: They know how to keep their military failures hidden…for a time at least.

Once upon a time, Israeli Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev divulged that a member of the Israeli army’s elite Sayeret Matkal special operations force, Barak Sharabi, who died in action in 1984, was killed on Syrian territory. This disclosure came despite a military censor order prohibiting the publication of details surrounding Sharabi’s death.

During an interview on public radio, Bar-Lev, himself a former commander, mentioned Sharabi as one of the soldiers he knew personally and who died under his command, and explained that Sharabi was killed “somewhere in the depths of Syrian territory.” The timing of the disclosure, just before Memorial Day in “Israel”, and without coordination with the military censor’s office, surprised officials who are now assessing the consequences.

According to the Security Ministry’s Yizkor memorial website, Sharabi served in the “first Lebanon War” before his death on December 18, 1984, and was buried at the military cemetery in “Nes Tziona.” The website mentions that Sharabi served in Sayeret Matkal and later underwent combat parachute and medic courses. It also notes that he agreed to extend his service for an additional year to carry out a “specific mission”, without providing further details about his death.

A member of the Shin Bet security agency who participated in the operation in which Sharabi was killed, described it as “very complicated” in a 2014 interview. He emphasized the sensitivity of the unit’s operations and the potential harm to state security if the incident was disclosed. The operation was deemed successful, except for Sharabi’s death.

One soldier, two causes of death: Mishap, military failure

Public sources have referred to Sharabi’s death as a result of a “mishap” and a “military failure.” The operation apparently went awry, leading to a challenging rescue mission for the soldiers involved. The Makor Rishon report stated that the soldiers involved had to be rescued along with Sharabi, who had been killed, and eight other wounded soldiers. The report also suggested that if the soldiers had been detected by the enemy that night, it could have escalated into a full-scale war for “Israel.”

Initially, Sharabi’s family was not informed about the true circumstances of his death and were told that he died in a traffic accident. It was later revealed to them by former prime minister Ehud Barak, who was heading the army’s Intelligence Corps at the time, that Sharabi was killed “beyond enemy lines.”

The disclosure by Bar-Lev has raised concerns, leading Likud lawmaker Shlomo Karhi to call for an urgent meeting of the Public Security Committee to discuss Bar-Lev’s actions and competencies. Karhi has also notified the Attorney General and proposed a parliamentary debate on the matter.

Human losses weaken fragile Internal front 

During the five-day confrontations between “Israel” and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the Gaza Strip, there was controversy over “Israel’s” refusal to acknowledge its own human losses in military combat with Palestinian resistance forces. 

Operation Avenging the Free saw Palestinian Resistance fighters launching over 1,500 missiles at Israeli settlements. Despite witnesses describing heavy losses, “Israel” only officially acknowledged the killing of a settler and a foreign worker, claiming 74 others were wounded. This controversy echoes a previous incident in which “Israel” belatedly admitted that four Israeli officers had been killed in a 2014 operation by the Hamas military arm, Al-Qassam Brigades. The Israeli forces initially claimed to have “neutralized all attackers without disclosing any casualties among their own ranks.”

Shocking new information surrounding the deaths of four Israeli officers was recently revealed by Israeli Channel 12 on April 20, 2023. According to the report, the Al-Qassam Brigades had planned to abduct these soldiers, prompting the Israeli army’s Gaza Division Command to implement the controversial “Hannibal Directive.” This directive calls for the use of force, including potentially causing harm to Israeli occupation forces, in order to prevent their capture.

The disclosure of this information has reignited the ongoing debate regarding “Israel’s” tactic of acknowledging its human losses, including military personnel, in confrontations with Palestinian resistance groups. Some argue that “Israel” is determined to convey the message, both to its own population and its adversaries, that its soldiers do not die in battle.

An Expert in Arab-Israeli conflict and the Zionist movement Adel Sheded told Al Mayadeen English that “Israel” is well aware that wars and victories do not solely rely on tanks, planes, and military power, but also on the human element, specifically the soldier, and the cohesion of the Jewish community supporting them in war.

“Because the Jewish community is highly sensitive towards soldiers during war, the death or injury of any soldier will have a negative impact on the morale of the army and the community behind them. It will undermine their spirits and motivation, leading to cracks within the army and the community, which will ultimately favor the Palestinian side, strengthen their morale, and make them feel victorious and confident. This may even result in the decisive outcome of the battle,” he added.

Sheded also highlighted that the death of soldiers during combat is not announced at all sometimes, especially if the soldiers are Arabs, since their parents feel ashamed to let people know that their children were killed in the war against their own Palestinian people.

“Therefore, they accept financial compensation in exchange for not announcing the death of their children or even providing them with housing, as it serves the common interest between the army and their families,” he said.

He also noted that sometimes “the deceased soldier is a loner, and they are numerous, and they do not have families, so the announcement is not made, and it remains confidential.”

Military casualties overseas?!

A remarkable instance of this denial can be seen in the case of Ahmad Kassir, a resistance fighter who carried out an operation in 1982 at the military governor’s headquarters in Tyre, Lebanon. Despite compelling evidence indicating that the bombing led to the deaths of 141 Israeli soldiers, “Israel” has not officially acknowledged this fact. Instead, “Israel” has attributed the incident to a gas leak or structural failure, resulting in the building’s collapse. However, it is widely believed that this operation marked the region’s first martyrdom operation.

Another notable incident was a reported operation in Erbil, Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of two US and Israeli commanders in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Deputy Commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. However, both the Americans and Israelis claimed that the deaths of their respective senior officers were “non-combat related” and did not occur in Erbil. For instance, Israeli Colonel Sharon Asman, who reportedly assumed command of the Nahal Infantry Brigade shortly before his death, was said to have died in “Israel” after collapsing during a training run. You read it right, a training run.

“Israel’s” persistent denial and dissemination of misinformation regarding its troop losses cannot continue indefinitely. In November 2022, “Israel” was compelled to reopen the investigation into the Tyre operation, with the army and Shin Bet intelligence agency using new technology to reinvestigate the incident.

The ‘Willow Song’

In 2019, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah revealed new details about the killing of 12 Israeli soldiers by their Shayetet 13 naval commando unit in a 1997 ambush in Ansariyeh, Lebanon. The families of the deceased soldiers were furious and demanded accountability from the leaders of the failed Israeli military operation, codenamed ‘Willow Song’, as the families vehemently rejected the claims of Israeli authorities that the “disaster” was caused by a technical error in the soldiers’ explosive devices.

Despite the strict control over information by the Israeli army, occasional disclosures and slips of the tongue continue to reveal hidden losses in the ranks of soldiers. These slips challenge the official narratives and expose the truth. For example, former Minister of Internal Security Omer Bar-Lev, while congratulating Israeli border guards on social media for their success in killing Palestinian Resistance fighters in Jenin, inadvertently sent condolences to the families of Israeli soldiers who had died in the operations. This contradicted the Israeli army’s admission of only one battle casualty, claiming that a Yamam Special Unit commander had been “injured” rather than killed.

Palestinian journalist Mujahid el Saade told Al Mayadeeen English that one of the pillars of the occupation’s doctrine is not to disclose the number of casualties in combat, lest their fragile image of strength be tarnished in the internal front, which is fragile due to the diverse backgrounds and ethnicities of the Israeli settlers.

“If the number of casualties is announced, it will weaken the occupation’s internal front leading to its collapse. Therefore, there is a security Attaché in all media outlets to deny or announce deaths or injuries,” he said.

This tactic has become a subject of ridicule for the new armed resistance cells in the occupied West Bank. Groups like the Lions’ Den and the Jenin Brigade confirm inflicting casualties on Israeli forces and mock “Israel’s” attempts to downplay or attribute deaths to accidents or other unrelated causes. 

A brief examination of Israeli media reveals numerous instances of soldier casualties classified as “accidents.” In 2017, for example, Israeli Channel 7 reported that six soldiers were killed in various circumstances during the month of June alone. These incidents included vehicle overturns, sudden deaths during training, weapon misuse, and suicides. Similarly, in 2016, ten similar incidents involving soldiers were documented, most of them occurring in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

When Palestinian Resistance ridicules its enemy

In 2021, Israeli media initially reported the killing of intelligence officer Yehuda Cohen by unidentified gunmen in Mexico. However, other regional media sources later claimed that he died in an attack on a Mossad center in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, allegedly carried out by Iran, where several Israeli officers were reportedly killed and injured.

In 2022, Israeli press sources reported the death of Officer Nikolai Wodubenko, a member of the ‘Yamam unit’ involved in operations against resistance fighters in the occupied West Bank. According to these reports, Wodubenko died in a car accident in Al-Quds.

During the five-day Avenging the Free operation in May, there was an increase in the number of Israeli troop casualties classified as “accidental,” as reported by Israeli media outlets. These incidents included a car accident near the “Givat Zeev” settlement resulting in three deaths, an individual falling from a balcony in “Asdod,” two bodies found in the “Bnei Barak” and “Holon” settlements, a motorcyclist killed in a car accident in the Netivot settlement, a plane crash in Upper Al-Jalil causing one death and two injuries, and a gas leak in a restaurant in Beer Al-Sabe resulting in one death and nine injuries.

On July 3, the Al-Qassam Brigades in Jenin camp announced that a number of Israeli occupation soldiers were targeted in a well-planned and coordinated ambush between Palestinian Resistance factions in the camp while attempting to advance through one of the houses. The Brigades dared the Israeli occupation army to declare its confirmed losses, whether killed or injured. 

As “Israel’s” political arena today remains a cluster of unhappiness and infighting, it seems they are scurrying now more than ever to reinforce their no-casualties image in front of not only the Palestinian Resistance but the world as well. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has lately revived the “cobweb theory” of Israeli society, in reference to the occupation being weaker than a spider’s web, something anyone can see. But how many Israeli soldiers will be able to make their way out of the web before it comes crashing down on them? 

Read more: A legend that debunked a myth: Scenes from the 2006 July War

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