Almost one month after Hezbollah antitank missiles killed two IDF soldiers, an initial investigation has revealed that the event could have been preventable.
On January 28, Major Yochai Kalengal and Sgt. Dor Chaim Nini were killed after Hezbollah terrorists shot between 4-6 antitank missiles into Israel, near Har Dov in the Golan Heights. The attack also injured six more soldiers and a Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper was killed in retaliatory fire from Israel.
However, Military Intelligence (MI) had sent sufficient information to the Northern Command before the incident to prevent the deaths, Walla! News reports Sunday – and the information was simply not translated into practical action in time to avoid the attack. Moreover, the decision to allow military vehicles to patrol the border was a logical decision, the report reveals.
MI had warned the Northern Command about the potential for retaliation from Hezbollah, which made multiple threats before the attack after an IAF airstrike in Syria killed one of its senior terrorists, along with five other Hezbollah terrorists and an Iranian general, who were scouting to plan an attack on the Golan Heights.
The decision to allow a military patrol along the border in the Har Dov region was made by the commander of Brigade 769, Col. Dan Goldfus, the report adds. Goldfus allegedly presented a "convincing argument" to investigators over the decision to patrol the Lebanon border that day, a senior official involved in the investigation revealed to the daily, as well as why Givati Brigade soldiers from the Tzabar unit were summoned to supervise the patrol.
Senior military officials also made it clear Sunday that – contrary to a damning report published in the Lebanese Daily Star – the IDF had no intention of firing at UNIFIL peacekeeping forces along the border during its response to the Hezbollah attack. They emphasized that the point of the response, during which several shells were fired into Lebanese territory, was to eliminate Hezbollah targets at the sites estimated to have been the sources for the antitank fire.
"The attack on [Hezbollah] targets were approved, but under no circumstances did the IDF intend to affect the position of the UN peacekeepers [at the site]," the IDF official stated Sunday, adding that the UNIFIL peacekeeper's death was "unfortunate."
The official added that despite the death, "the professional relationship between the IDF and the United Nations forces stationed in southern Lebanon will not change."
A security official said that Israel always expects UNIFIL forces to operate effectively, and to prevent Hezbollah's military from attacking from southern Lebanon.
Also contrary to Lebanese media reports, an IDF spokesperson stated Sunday that the IDF did not use the "Hannibal Protocol" in the attack's wake – using all means to eliminate the abducting terrorists, even if it means killing any abducted soldiers as well. No soldiers were abducted in the January attack, but early reports shortly after the incident indicated confusion over whether there were any abductions during the clash.
This is the second time reports have surfaced in the Israeli media suggesting that the IDF knew about the Hezbollah attack in advance. Just two days after the incident, Channel 10 reported that the IDF had advance warning of a Hezbollah response to the airstrike – and that whereas other units had been pulled from patrolling the border, Givati's Tzabar unit had not had its orders retracted, for reasons that remain under investigation.