Israel launches formal inquiry into 1982 blast at IDF headquarters in Lebanon war

Officials long claimed that explosion which killed 91 people in Tyre was a gas leak, but probe launched last year says there’s reason to believe it was a Hezbollah suicide bombing

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Rescue workers search for survivors after an explosion at Israeli military headquarters in the Lebanese city of Tyre in 1982. (Wikimedia Commons/IDF Archive)
Rescue workers search for survivors after an explosion at Israeli military headquarters in the Lebanese city of Tyre in 1982. (Wikimedia Commons/IDF Archive)

Israeli authorities on Sunday announced they would open a commission of inquiry into a deadly explosion at Israel’s military headquarters in Tyre during the First Lebanon War in 1982, widely believed to have been a suicide bombing.

Officially, Israel has said the explosion on November 11, 1982, was caused by a gas leak, although multiple reports, including those in the immediate aftermath, pointed to a Hezbollah suicide bombing attack.

The Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security agency, and Israel Police said in a joint statement Sunday that a team established in November to examine materials related to the incident found that there was reason to believe the bombing was a deliberate attack.

“The team’s recommendation, submitted to and adopted by the heads of the organizations, was to open a joint official investigative committee of the IDF, Shin Bet, and the Israel Police, this in light of new findings… that strengthen the possibility that the building’s collapse was caused as a result of a terror attack,” the statement said.

A commission of inquiry headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amir Abulafia, the former commander of the military’s Planning Directorate, will “examine the findings of the probe team and other materials, in order to form a final position on the matter,” the statement said.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group claimed responsibility for the explosion, identifying the suicide bomber as 17-year-old Ahmad Qasir. A small monument was erected in honor of Qasir near Baalbek, in eastern Lebanon.

Ahmad Qasir (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The explosion killed at least 91 people, according to Israeli officials, including 75 members of Israeli security forces and several more Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

“The IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police share in the grief of the bereaved families and will do everything in their power to find out the circumstances of the incident, as part of their commitment to the fallen and their families,” the statement said.

Mossad historian Ronen Bergman, in a 2007 book on Israel’s shadow war with Iran, said three witnesses saw a Peugeot apparently driven by Qasir speed into the IDF building moments before the explosion.

The book said Military Police investigators found a leg that did not belong to any of the bodies of the victims, as well as the engine of the Peugeot buried under the wreckage of the building. The engine was identified as having been acquired in Lebanon and was not in IDF use, according to Bergman.

The aftermath of the attack on IDF headquarters in Tyre, Lebanon, Novmber 11, 1982. (IDF/public domain)

Additionally, Bergman said an affidavit by a Shin Bet operative who served in Lebanon at the time stated that after the 1982 Tyre blast, he received a detailed intelligence report containing a full description of the Hezbollah preparations for the suicide bombing.

The affidavit also stated that the Shin Bet top brass ordered the report be discarded and not discussed again, according to Bergman.

Almost a year after the blast on November 4, 1983, a similar bombing targeted the IDF base in Tyre, killing 28 Israelis and 32 Lebanese prisoners. Israel has confirmed the second blast was a suicide bombing by Hezbollah.

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