Al-Ahed Re-Publishes Secret File: Gerstein’s Last Moments
By Staff - Beirut
Al-Ahed News Website reveals secret chapters of one of the Islamic Resistance’s great achievements, which has remained concealed for years.
The story of the final moments of the commander of the Zionist forces in Lebanon, Erez Gerstein, who was executed by the Islamic Resistance in a qualitative operation on February 28, 1999, is told by those who lived it minute by minute.
The Al-Ahed newspaper unveiled one of the chapters of the secret war that took place during the Zionist occupation of Lebanon. The following is the first episode. The other episodes will follow in the coming days.
Erez Gerstein: Identification Card
Brigadier General Erez Gerstein was one of the most prominent Zionist military commanders "and one of the best commanders in the field", specializing in topography. He was the top “Israeli” military official in Lebanon.
He participated in many acts of aggression against Lebanon. In 1982, he was the assistant to the then War Minister Ariel Sharon. He believed that the naval commandos were not a sufficient challenge for him. He repeatedly raided Nabatiyeh and the Beaufort Castle [Arnoun Castle]. He took part in the Battle of Beaufort, in addition to his raids on the tunnels of Naameh.
He rose through the ranks. He was the commander of "Sirt Golani" that is the Special Forces and then commander of the Golani Brigade. In March 1998, he was appointed successor to Brigadier General Eli Amitai in heading the Southern Command of the Armed Forces (the commander of the liaison unit).
Two months after assuming the post of commander of the Golani Brigade, his brigade suffered a severe blow. Seven soldiers were killed at the Aishiyeh site. At the end of his service at this post, five of his soldiers were also killed in Wadi Saluki.
His car was hit by an improvised explosive device near the village of Al-Rihan. He miraculously survived. But on Sunday evening, 28 February 1999, he did not survive a larger explosion that blew up his armored vehicle. Three others, including an ‘Israeli’ radio reporter were also killed. The Islamic Resistance prepared the explosive device at the al-Khan-Kawkab junction.
"“Israel’s” hand is long. We will bring any fugitive back wherever he is. And we will behead him sooner or later. Soon, we will carry the heads of the traitors with our hands. We are a state that does not abandon its vengeance even years later."
These were the final words of Erez Gerstein, the commander of the liaison unit in Lebanon and the top military man of the “Israeli” forces occupying southern Lebanon, who was speaking to a group of “Israeli”-affiliated militias in the town of Shebaa.
- End of Introduction -
This happened on the last day of the cold month of February. It was a warm morning unlike regular winter mornings. News of his arrival was widely disseminated moments before his convoy of three civilian bulletproofed armored vehicles equipped with heavy machine guns entered the town. The motorcade emerged from the heart of the dust storm. The sun was setting when the general got out of his dark-curtained car and entered a neighboring building to pay his respects to the wife of a fallen militia security agent and pay the price for his death. The widow was paid USD 50,000 within less than five minutes.
The general left the dead agent’s house and waited in the middle of the road.
"I carefully observed him after everyone was in my line of vision. His facial features shone under the shy winter sunlight. He was rudely moving amidst the soldiers, as if he had something he wanted to say quickly,” Malik sighs as he tells the story of his last meeting with Erez Gerstein.
"I sank a little bit into the noise under my balcony. And I began observing him carefully. I saw him chase a flying insect with the corner of his eye and stomp the dirt with his shoe to search for another one crawling. He did not want to miss out on anything. Then, he turned his head. His eyes ran across the hills of Kfar Shuba and Shebaa, as if he was redrawing the map of the deployment of the “Israeli” forces in that region. The region was the other side of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. He was doing so as the top “Israeli” army topographer in Lebanon. This is aside from his passion for insects.”
"With the corner of his other eye, I saw him looking down on my superior in the 504 “Israeli” intelligence unit, who in turn had his head down. It was in contrast to the picture that led me to accompany him in his work, where he would meet senior “Israeli” officers and take instructions from them directly without humiliation. They trusted him. They were so concerned about him that they insisted on getting to know me since I was his personal bodyguard. This coincided with Erez Gerstein taking up his new post in Lebanon. The eyes of my superior did not meet the general’s. Boredom was obvious on his face. And he seemed to stand there for too long when compared to his constant movement on the field. He was only used to standing in the battlefields in the face of elements of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance. He participated in the invasion of Beirut when he helped Sharon in 1982. He took part in besieging the city of Beirut. He used to watch the fire raging during the night from atop the overlooking hills. He also took part in the Battle of Beaufort. He used to boast that he entered the town despite the forces that defended the castle until the last breath. He raided Nabatiyeh and Arnoun, etc. While I was going through these pictures in my head, the loud voice of a security officer of the agents’ militia Riyad al-Hamra brought me back to where I was standing: ‘Malik, the general wants to speak to the men. It is unreasonable for him to stay on the street. Open your house for us for just five minutes.’”
“The blood in my veins froze due to the shock that came over me. ‘In my house, me, what blind trust.’ I said to myself, I could not say a single word. The whole group walked toward the stairs while I was taking my little family, my wife and child, upstairs to where my parents lived. I opened the doors widely for the arrivals, including twenty military personnel working in the “Israeli” intelligence and security officers with stars on their shoulders, which I’ve come accustomed to seeing recently. I looked for Doron’s face among the crowd. He was the first “Israeli” intelligence officer I met in the Metula settlement before handing over his post to his successor, Abu al-Nimr. Doron was not among those who entered my small house. Gerstein did not forgive those with even a single security failure. The issue of double agent Raja Ward fleeing the occupation’s authority has not been closed yet! I have never seen a fat person like Abu Nimr, an “Israeli” officer whose eloquence in Arabic and broad memory of Arab proverbs I will never forget. The leaders that passed before me were not higher than the general’s rank. His body touched mine. He did not pay attention to my surprised and confused breathing. He trusted me. He threw his pouch indifferently at my porch as proof of his confidence in the security measures as well as being in my house.”
Malik, who is recalling the details of the last 30 minutes in the life of Erez Gerstein, added: “He entered and sat here on this chair. Next to him was Rafiq al-Saeed, the Zionist general who was responsible for the so-called civil administration in the eastern sector. On his other side was “Israel’s” radio reporter and military spokesperson in the region Ilan Roeh. He was preparing the recorder for him [Gerstein] on this table as if he was documenting the history of this senior officer who was qualified to hold very high-ranking positions in the “Israeli” army." Here (gesturing with his hand) sat Munir al-Shawfi, the operations officer of the 30th Regiment."
“Before the rest of the crowd rested from the tour, Nadeem Abu Rafie, the commander of the Hasbaya district of the 30th Brigade, sent Mohammed Zein, the officer of the agents’ militia in the region, to buy refreshments. The agents were in a state of tension as a result of the blows dealt by the Islamic Resistance. The blows shook the agents’ army structure and infiltrated its security apparatus. The agents needed some juice to be refreshed and a morale boost to strengthen their determination. The general started boosting their morale, taking advantage of the intermittent time as usual. He enjoyed talking about his achievements against Hezbollah even if it was about the Kfour explosive device that lead to the martyrdom of five resistance fighters. He seemed boastful with his great achievement, which would contribute as he put it to the dismantling of Hezbollah!”
“He said, ‘the safety of the “Israeli” Defense Force and the Northern Command was based on striking Hezbollah everywhere.’ Then he continued sarcastically, ‘This is what happened to them in this operation – the Kfour Operation. We certainly hit them. We see that we have an intelligence capability to reach them. The use of the explosive devices is aimed at helping launch local strikes at Hezbollah whenever we want. I repeat what I said before, we meant to hit those responsible for the "subversive operations" in Hezbollah, which was sometimes portrayed in the country as a large organization. There are many fighters in it, and this is no secret when you succeed in striking them.’”
“Erez Gerstein was accustomed to recounting his military achievements. He presented himself as a hero in his wars against the resistance. He did not hesitate in his private conversations with his fellow officers to reveal his role in the attack of the Special Forces on the military headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – the General Command in the Naameh-Damour area to assassinate Ahmed Jibril. Back then he was the commander of the Golani Brigade and the spearhead. The operation began with dropping elite elements with booby-trapped dogs trained to enter tunnels. “Israeli” military intelligence officers, including Erez, believed that the assassination of Ahmed Jibril in this way would be a great achievement for them. But the pictures of the dead dogs on the pages of Beirut’s newspapers issued the following day proved without doubt the failure of the smart operation.”
“He said: ‘The more chaos, the more complaints from the military police. This is good.’ The leaders patted his shoulder and he always got the highest applause when he stated his position.”
“He strongly criticized what he called self-restraint in Lebanon, saying: ‘The soldiers' blood is no less red than the blood of the civilians.’
“‘All eyes on him’ ... He carried a cup filled with soda and sipped the acid nitrate, and then with his other hand he threw the pieces of nuts into his mouth and began to crack pistachios and the white pumpkin seeds with his shiny teeth. Everyone was looking at him in silence, observing the details of the forty-year old man’s facial features, which were drone by the ranks he occupied. He rose from the commander of the Special Forces to the commander of the Golani Brigade. In March 1998, he was appointed successor to Brigadier General Eli Amitai who was dismissed from office following his security failure and the confirmation by the leadership in the “Israeli” army that the Islamic Resistance was able to breach all his security measures and get to agents and recruit them. The command of the Armed Forces in the south was handed over to Gerstein, who outperformed his trainers with his vast experiences against what they called subversive operations. He was classified as one of the best field officers and most senior commander of the “Israeli” army in Lebanon. He had every Zionist’s trust as the commander of the liaison unit.”
Malik was tirelessly narrating what had happened at his home shortly before the death explosive device planted by the resistance on the road to Kawkaba killed Erez. Unlike his family, he never mentioned the word peace once. “I remember when we used to go to Eilat, Taba, Haifa, Naqab and Safad every year to attend secret security meetings and the distribution of tasks or receive training under the auspices of Uri Lubrani, who used to meet us once a year to deliver his "peace" speech. He entered with an olive branch in his hand saying: "You are the ambassadors of peace and mediators between us and the Lebanese state."
“The general adjusted his seating position and puffed his chest out, which was filled with threats and mixed with kindness for the remains of the agents that were the only ones left behind from the many that deserted. His words were harsh. Rafiq Al Saeed noticed the relatives of the agents that deserted. So he whispered to Gerstein and asked him to smooth things over and avoid stirring sensitivity and tension among the remaining agents. However, Erez stuck to his stance as usual. When he spoke during meetings, silence befell the brigade commanders and officers, in anticipation of what he had in store for them. He never disappointed the enemy. His public statements in internal deliberations were headlines. He was the one who did not take into account the feelings of the mothers when he attacked the Four Mothers organization in May of last year because “it negatively affects the battlefield and posed a threat to the soldier and his life as a commander.” How would he take into account the feelings of his agents! This was what affected the siblings of the agents present there and pushed them to flee later and follow their fugitive brothers.”
Malik takes a puff of his cigarette and adds: "After more than half an hour, the general left my house with his entourage. The phone was on my side. I had a strange feeling of responsibility and fear of what was coming at once. My anticipation for certain news included a mixture of fear and challenge. I even wished for a moment that he would die after one or two days.
My heart was beating with every tick of the clock, which indicated ten past 11. Then my brother, who lived above my house, called me to turn on the television and shouted: "Look at what happened to the people who were at your house." I tried to stop breathing to hear the news broadcast by one of the Arab satellite channels: "General Erez Gerstein, the “Israeli” liaison officer in southern Lebanon, was killed in southern Lebanon on the Marjayoun-Hasbayya road after an explosive device was detonated by Hezbollah fighters. Gerstein was the highest-ranking military officer killed by Hezbollah ... Three of his companions, including an ‘Israeli’ radio correspondent were killed with him."
“I was shocked and silent. I flipped channels hoping to hear something that refutes the news. I might be dreaming. Could all these resonating speeches evaporate and go in vain without a farewell!”
“After hearing the news of his death, dozens of Zionist settlers protested angrily in front of the headquarters of the so-called Minister of War. They burned rubber tires and raised banners saying: ‘Stop the foolish occupation’, ‘It's stupid to stay in Lebanon’, and ‘It's Lebanon, you idiots.’”
“Then I remembered the last thing he said before he left my house for Marjayoun: ‘Hezbollah is dying.’" The moment of my meditation was interrupted by a call. On the other side of the line was a voice I got used to confidently cheering: ‘Congratulations.’”
They Know Everything
One of the Zionist analysts said during a live broadcast in an interview with the enemy's television: "that he had to say that because of everything that happened, this was a pre-planned ‘attack’ on Brigadier General Erez Gerstein. It was not a coincidence. He was the intended target and they were doing research on him. This is because they broadcast his biography all the time. Since the first broadcast on Al-Manar TV in the afternoon, they spoke about Gerstein's life in an archival documentary for 20 minutes. Of course, this is not an easy job to do in a day. It is related to different events and tours he made during his work for a year since he took up his post, including material they record from “Israeli” television and based on Hezbollah’s information. What is more important is that the operation was carried out inside the "security zone" under “Israeli” control, and we know that Hezbollah has intelligence and informants inside this area. The elements collect and transfer this intelligence information to Hezbollah leaders in southern Lebanon. Accordingly, they plan to carry out their operations.
In the next episode: Who is the Malik al-Saeedi?
How did he infiltrate the agents’ militia and gained the confidence of the Zionist officers?
Information published for the first time
The first lie detector was used in police circles in 1924. It is a traditional device known as the polygraph or multiple scripts. It is illustrated by a number of wavy lines on a sheet of paper. It monitors the "physiological" indicators, such as respiration, skin conductivity and pulse. It also requires the use of highly qualified experts.
How to use a lie detector: The person being questioned sits on a chair. Two rubber belts are tied around his chest and stomach to measure the pattern of his breathing. A blood pressure monitor is also placed on his arm. His fingers are connected to a metal piece to measure the activity of the sweat glands. The test begins with asking simple questions to gain a standard for the indicators recorded on the polygraph. Then the subject is asked real questions to which he has to answer with Yes or No. This, while all his body indicators are drawn on a piece of moving paper.
Before and after the test, charts can be seen on the moving sheet to see if there is a sudden and significant change in the indicators, such as a rapid heartbeat, increase in blood pressure, increased sweating, or others when answering a particular question.
Researcher and director of the Federation of American Scientists Project, Steven Aftergood, said that the lie detector is a trick. It can easily be tricked by moving the feet or shoulders while giving any misleading answers to the interrogator's questions as well as the constant thinking about disturbing matters that cause the subject to feel sad or upset during the session. Hence, the device can no longer distinguish between his worries and his misleading answers.