Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Omer Bar-Lev, goofed on Tuesday of last week by revealing details of a highly-classified military operation.
On Tuesday, December 18, 1984, Staff Sergeant Barak Sharabi died. For the past 37 years that’s all the Israeli public had been told of his demise, though Sharabi was honored as having fallen in the line of duty.
The only other thing anyone knew was that Sharabi served in the most elite commando unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, known in Hebrew as Sayeret Matkal.
At that time, Bar-Lev was commander of Sayeret Matkal.
During an interview on Israel’s Kan public broadcaster last week to mark Memorial Day, Bar-Lev spoke of those who had died under his command. And that’s when he inadvertently revealed what was previously unknown: Sharabi, said Bar Lev, “died deep inside Syrian territory.”
Israeli’s military censor quickly removed social media posts by Israelis who saw Bar-Lev’s admission. But the posts were soon returned when the army realized it could no longer put that particular cat back in the bag.
Bar-Lev’s office later issued an apology over the slip, and the army then allowed other officers to speak slightly more openly about the affair.
They further revealed that Sharabi had been killed when the jeep he was riding in overturned while taking a turn at high speed. His body and the eight other soldiers wounded in the crash were immediately evacuated back to Israeli territory and the mission was aborted.
The incident was said to have sent shockwaves through Israel’s intelligence bodies and special forces, with many calling it an avoidable operational error.
But that’s where our knowledge ends. Where in Syria was Sharabi’s team, what was their target, and why were they driving so fast, and possibly in a reckless manner, at the time of his death?
The answers to these and so many other questions remain shrouded, and might never be revealed.
What is today known, and is bolstered by the disclosure of Barak Sharabi’s fate, is that the long arm of Israel can and does reach deep inside the borders of even its most hostile foes.