Hussein Khaidar, 25, from Ansariya village, was the Hizballah officer killed Friday, Sept. 5, trying to dismantle “odd-looking components” on which he had stumbled on a routine patrol at the Adloun village. The village lies 40 km north of the Israeli border town of Rosh Hanikra and midway between the Lebanese ports of Tyre and Sidon, located at a junction which overlooks traffic running from the south to Beirut.
According to the Lebanese media, Khaidar and another young Lebanese man were struck dead by an unmanned Israeli aircraft overhead, which had been tracking them and blew up the mysterious object by remote control as soon as they found it. Fragments believed to have belonged to another listening device were later gathered from the site without incident.
Adloun is located less than a kilometer west of the Lebanese main coastal highway and about the same distance east of the sea shore. It provides a key vantage point for the control and reconnaissance of highway traffic and activities on the shore.
Were the Lebanese media correct in attributing the cloud of black smoke rising over the village Friday to an Israeli drone blowing up an Israeli listening device which carried no identifying marks? Or was a bomb built into the charred boxes that appear in the photo attached to this article? How did this intriguing mechanism find its way to the Lebanese village of Adloun and what was it producing?
Hizballah’s optic fiber communications
It is important to remember that the Hizballah terrorist organization runs an independent militia in sovereign Lebanon outside the national army. Its massive arsenal of rockets worries Israel’s security chiefs even more than the Iranian menace. Hizballah is also supported by a sophisticated hi-tech communications network that links its command centers, units in different parts of the country, rocket launchers, the residences of senior officials, storage depots and intelligence branches. Those communications are no doubt largely ciphered and therefore hard to intercept and decode.
These tasks are made doubly difficult by the fact that they run through optical fiber lines buried underground.
Optical fibers are virtually indestructible by air attacks and can theoretically carry an infinite volume of data for serving electronic mail, Internet surfers, files, faxes, videos and various command and control messages in battle conditions. They owe their high degree of durability to the fact that if one buried fibered telecommunication path is destroyed, a secondary one takes over without a pause in the traffic.
Communication firms in many countries operate by optical fiber networks for cell phones, cable television and military and government services.
A high tech listening device
External interfacing with an enemy’s optical fiber infrastructure, which is what spies try to do, calls for special technological and operational resources, substantial investment and special expertise. It is also highly risky. Preparations for installing an eavesdropping device entail detailed and lengthy advance surveillance to search out the targeted network, precisely map its branches, identify the technology in use and select the right point for the interface.
The photos released by Hizballah do not betray the nature of the “odd-looking” components, some of which bear clear signs of a blast. But they do look as though they belonged to a high tech device capable of latching onto optic fibers and containing signaling and firewall measures as well as a source of energy.
Autonomous high-tech spying devices planted secretly in enemy terrain need to have a self-supplying energy source sufficient to keep them functioning and signalling their home base over long periods, often stretching out into years. They need to stay working in extreme climate conditions of humidity, heat, cold and dirt, while staying hidden, silent and invisible.
The specially trained covert unit assigned with planting the device at the selected site will have reached it under cover of dark by secret pathways, possibly sea. They must plant it and make a clean getaway. The real test comes next. Is the device working properly? Is it intercepting enemy communications and broadcasting the requisite data back to its control center?
Sophisticated self-destruct mechanism
Hizballah is advised by a flock of Iranian expert engineers on how to stay ahead and beat the foreign eavesdropping measures that threaten its security. They belong to special Iranian units whose job it is to run to earth, capture intact and dissect sophisticated spying devices – so far without success. It is therefore most unlikely that a chance Hizballah patrol simply “stumbled” on the device, while on a routine patrol at Adloun Friday, as the Lebanese army spokesman reported in a press communiqué.
The presence of the drone overhead was undoubtedly connected to an event on the ground. But the Al Manar newspaper’s description of Hussein Khaidar’s death, while trying to dismantle a suspicious object, indicates that the device was booby-trapped with just enough explosives to self-destruct and hit anyone curious enough to examine it before they discovered its secrets.