In Part I, we described in detail the nuclear-chemical and missile threats that Israel confronted under the Gaddafi regime. In this part of the article, we will focus on the “common” — the conventional threats from Libya till the time of its collapse through the civil war.
This article also covers a number of terrible terrorist attacks that the Gaddafi regime in Libya intended to carry out against Israel, including: the Haifa attack, the sinking of a passenger airliner, the shooting down of El-Al planes with shoulder-fired rockets and much more. This evil regime died on Simchat Torah, which the Chassidim call “The Rebbe’s Day”.
Libya threats the Israel: this is how some of the major terrorist attacks planned against us were stopped....
As explained in the first part, Libya was regarded in Israel as a “second circle” state. This was obviously due to the fact that Libya does not directly border Israel. For many years, however, the Libyan threat was taken very seriously in Israel on several levels.
Expeditionary Corps in the Pan-Arabic War against Israel
Generally speaking, “second” and “third” circle countries that do not directly border Israel were able to take part in the Pan-Arabic war (once declared to the Jewish state by the Arab world) by means of the so-called “expeditionary corps”.
Libya did not take a serious part in the Six-Day War. But during the Yom Kippur War, such an “expeditionary corps” from Libya to Egypt included an armored brigade (about 100 tanks), 18 guns, 3 helicopters and an air force consisting of dozens of French 3rd generation “Dassault Mirage-5” top multi-purpose fighter planes, the most advanced at that time.
Together with other forces from Algeria and other neighboring countries, the Libyan Expeditionary Corps provided a line of defense behind the Egyptian forces against the successfully advancing Israeli army. That allowed the Egyptians to relocate most of their forces to the Suez Canal, where the Israelis launched a counteroffensive.
The main actors involved in the fighting against the Israelis were the Libyan “Dassault Mirage-5” airplains, which were the most advanced aircraft at that time. These fighters represented a much more advanced model than the “Mirage” airplaines that Israel had. Even worse, in fact, the “Dassault Mirage-5” was designed by France, based on recommendations made by the Israelis and based on experience accumulated over the years by the Israeli army. The Israelis provided the French with all these recommendations, so that they could build a better model considering these recommendations. The French took advantage of the Israeli experience, but they refused to send the improved planes to the Jewish state because of the embargo imposed by their government on arms sales to Israel.
Nevertheless, the Israeli intelligence managed to get a significant part of the engineering documentation for these planes. The Israeli “Nesher” multi-purpose bomber jet, used in the Yom Kippur war, and then the “Kfir” all-weather multi-purpose fighter, were based on that intelligence information.
However, there is another deeper aspect to this story that has not been widely publicized. These “Dassault Mirage-5” airplanes were supposed to play a much more important role by Egyptian army than just being fighters deployed during the war. During the years before the Yom Kippur War, there was much debate by Egyptians over the military expansion and the weapons that Egypt needed to obtain in order to enter into a new confrontation with Israel after its shocking and unfortunate defeat in the Six-Day War.
The conclusion of the Egyptian analysts was based on the fact that along with a significant increase in weapons, improved training, the development of successful methods of crossing the border frontier — Suez Canal, and massive purchases of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, Egypt should also create a “containment weapon” against Israel. These weapons would keep the Israeli army from attacking the Egyptian rear (as it had happened in the War of Attrition), and in order to use them Egypt should purchase high-quality long-range military aircraft that can attack airfields deep behind Israeli lines (and not just in the Sinai, where the number of Israeli fighters was relatively small).
Based on these decisions, which Israel obtained via military intelligence and the Mossad, the leaders of the Jewish state formed the infamous “concept” that Egypt would not start a war without providing itself with “containment weapons” and without long-range military aviation.
Now it is well known that this “concept” did not represent the real danger. At some point Sadat simply rejected all these requirements as a barrier to war. Egypt started the war without significant capabilities in the two above-mentioned areas.
Egypt gets “containment weapons” and long-range aviation
Yet, Egypt was actually enforced by some of these special powers after all.
In terms of “containment weapons,” Egypt requested from the Soviet Union and eventually received dozens of Soviet air-launched cruise missiles (KSR-2 and KSR-11) with ranges of up to hundreds of kilometers. These missiles were launched by the Egyptians in the direction of Tel Aviv during the war (by the grace of the Almighty they were stopped and some crashed down on their way due to malfunctions).
These radar-guided missiles were also fired at the Israeli “Hawk” missile batteries (American medium-range SAMs) and the air traffic control centers in the Sinai, which received extensive damage that caused them to be out of service for many hours.
In addition, on the day before the war, “Scud” missiles and launchers had been delivered to Egypt from the USSR. However, all these rocket launchers and missiles actually remained under the control of the Soviet military during the war.
In the sphere of high-quality military aviation, the Soviet Union could not offer Egypt any proper solutions, since the MiG-23 could not be put into service until 1974. Therefore, the Egyptian authorities asked the Libyan government to buy the top-quality long-range military aircraft, the “Dassault Mirage-5,” from France (which had also imposed an arms embargo on Egypt). Libya gladly agreed, and a contract was signed in January 1970 for France to deliver 110 “Dassault Mirage-5” jets. About half of them were special models, designed for long-range attacks, something Egypt was specifically interested in. Soon the “Dassault Mirage-5” jets started shipping to Egypt. They were a real breakthrough for the Egyptian air force, with the best Western technology and opened for the Egyptians an opportunity to strike deep behind Israeli lines. All this was only possible thanks to Libya (and, of course, to hypocritical France).
The original plan of the Egyptian air force was, as already mentioned, to use the latest “Mirages” to attack the air force bases deep inside Israel (and probably other strategic targets as well).In practice, however, the “Dassault Mirage-5” jets took part in the Egyptian sudden air strike at the beginning of the war, but only in the attack on targets in the Sinai. This was probably due to the fact that the number of “Dassault Mirage-5” jets required to launch an effective offensive deep inside Israel had to be much higher than what Egypt already owned at the time.
Nevertheless, these jets became dangerous because of their effectiveness against Israeli forces, both in air combat and in attacks against Israeli ground forces, thanks to their high quality and the fact that they were more difficult to identify as enemy aircraft in the air, due to their similarity with the Israeli jets of the same model.
Participation in the Lebanon War
During the First Lebanon War, Arab terrorist groups and Syria attacked the Israel Defense Forces almost all by themselves, but there was another Arab state that took part in the hostilities together with them. It was Libya.
The Syrian army received the major strike on its air force and air defense system. In the stunningly successful Medvedka operation, our air force shot down more than 80 Syrian warplanes in three days and destroyed or severely damaged some 19 anti-aircraft batteries. Therefore, Libyan aid to Syria was focused on compensating for losses in these very areas. Already at the very beginning of the fighting, Libya promised that it would replace every shot-down Syrian aircraft with the jets from its own aircraft hangars. Indeed, Libya supplied at least 10 or even 20 MiG-23s to Syria. However, as the rate at which Israeli pilots were shooting down Syrian planes increased, Libya realized that it did not have enough resources for this confrontation and stopped sending planes to Syria...
However, on top of that, Libya sent the Soviet SA-9 (“Arrow-1”) surface-to-air missile system to help the Syrians, who were stationed in Lebanon.
The Potential Threat of the Libyan Expeditionary Corps
Even after the end of the First Lebanon War, for many years the potential threat of Arab expeditionary corps, especially from Iraq and Libya, still remained a serious concern for Israel.
The Iraqi army, which had grown to enormous size during the Iran-Iraq war, was expected to have made a very serious contribution to the war against Israel by sending at least 3,000 tanks (more than three times bigger than the entire tank corps of the Jordanian army) and hundreds of thousands soldiers who could have been moved to the Syrian or Jordanian front very quickly. It was only after the First and then the Second Gulf War that the threat from the Iraqi expeditionary corps, by the grace and wonders of the Almighty, blessed be His name, disappeared and ceased to exist.
Taking advantage of its enormous oil resources, Libya purchased huge quantities of arms and ammunition after the Yom Kippur War and for about 15 years stockpiled the best military supplies the Soviet Union had to offer.
Among other things, Libya purchased about 2,000 tanks (including about 400 high-quality T-72 models) and about 2,000 APCs (including about 1,000 high-quality BMPs).
In fact, the Libyan armed forces could use no more than a quarter of the purchased tanks...
But Libya told the Arab world that it was buying all these tanks to provide them to Egypt and Syria when they, God forbid, went to war with Israel, thereby compensating for their losses, or allowing them to equip their reserve forces with these weapons.
Thus Libya became what Israel called “the arms depot of the Arab world”.
The Libyan artillery forces were also quite large, numbering 900 rocket launchers with a range of tens of kilometers, 500 self-propelled artillery pieces (all considered of very high quality at the time), as well as about 1000 more trailed guns and heavy mortars.
In other words, it was clear in Israel that in any combat scenario with Arab countries, the considerable strength of the Libyan armed forces had to be taken into account, and that large quantities of top quality weapons would be transferred to Syria and Egypt in any case of serious military confrontation.
In addition Libya also had a large air force of about 450 fighters, some of which were of very high quality, including:
1) 80 Soviet supersonic high-altitude, twin-engine, 3rd generation MiG-25 fighter-interceptors;
2) 30 French “Dassault Mirage” F1 light multi-role fighters;
3) 40 French “Dassault Mirage-5” fighters;
4) a small number of high-quality Su-24 jets, Soviet tactical frontline bombers capable of flying at very low altitudes “under the radar.”
The Libyan navy also posed a significant threat to Israel, with about 24 missile boats at its maximum strength, half of which were made in Europe and equipped with advanced Italian “Otomat” anti-ship missiles. There were serious concerns in Israel about the active involvement of the Libyan Navy together with the Egyptian Navy in military operations against Israel, in particular the blocking of shipping lanes that are important to the Israeli economy. This included the use of the four submarines that were also in the Libyan fleet.
After the collapse of the whole communist bloc, by the grace and miracles of the Almighty, the Libyan army, which had lost much of its Soviet support over the years, began to collapse.
The United Nations and the United States imposed extremely severe sanctions on Libya for the terrorist acts it had organized and the attempted accumulation of chemical weapons, which led to the further deterioration of its armed forces, which could neither acquire modern weapons from Europe nor even maintain their existing stockpiles.
Thus, the strength of the Libyan army was already significantly reduced about two decades ago. But its large land army was still able to deploy large quantities of weapons (tanks, etc.) to Arab countries in case of war with Israel over a long period of time.
The revolution that hit Libya in 2011 finally buried what was left of the Libyan army’s strength. So this threat was wiped out by the miracles and grace of the Almighty. Today’s Libya is no threat to Israel!
Terror against Israel in the past
The Libyan regime was deeply involved in terror against Israel, an activity of enormous proportions, and it is no coincidence that many have seen Libya as one of the major terror-supporting countries in the world, and perhaps even the leading one among them.
It is difficult to cover all of Libya’s enormous and highly diversified terrorist activities in a single article. It would be enough to mention that the Gaddafi regime actively supported no less than 40 different terrorist groups around the world. And not only against Israel, but also against Western democracies in general. Among Libya’s protégés were the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Basque left-wing separatist group ETA (ETA) and many others.
Directly Libyan terrorists, or those supported by the Gaddafi regime, are responsible for some of the most brutal terrorist acts in the world.
Including the 1988 bombing of a Pan American airline plane, known as the “Lockerbie disaster,” which caused the burning wreckage of a passenger airliner to crash into the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people (all 259 passengers and crew members and 11 others on the ground).
The investigation made a direct link between the Libyan regime and this horrible terrorist attack, but only 15 years later did Libya admit full responsibility for the act and transferred $2.7 billion in compensation to the hundreds of families of the victims.
Other equally famous terrorist acts were the attacks on the Israeli El Al Airlines counters in Rome and Vienna in 1985, the Egypt Air and Pan Am hijackings in 1985 and 1986, and the violent attacks by the PLO and its militant wing, the Black September group, which received considerable support from the Libyan regime (to be discussed below).
Libya annually transferred huge sums of hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorist groups such as Fatah, Black September, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the PFLP-General Command and many other paramilitary Marxist Palestinian Arab organizations, providing them with logistical support as well as arms and ammunition. They had training camps set up in Libya and were all aided by Libyan agents and Libyan embassies around the world.
Attempts to take revenge on Israel after the 1973 Libyan airliner crash
One relatively unknown page in the history of international terror is Libya’s attempts at revenge against Israel after the crash of a Libyan passenger plane in the skies over the State of Israel, about six months before the Yom Kippur War.
A Libyan Arab Airlines Boeing 727-224, flying to Cairo, miscalculated its navigation and crashed into Israeli airspace over the Sinai Peninsula (then owned by the State of Israel).
The plane was mistakenly identified as a threat by the Israeli fighter jets that intercepted it, after the pilots did not hear the warnings over the radio and interpreted signals of the Israeli fighter jets as an incoming international order to follow them. The fighter pilots, in turn, could not see the passengers because the windows of the airliner were curtained up. As a result of the following attack, the airliner crashed. Among the 113 passengers and crew members, 108 died.
Libya rushed to accuse Israel of evil intentions and that the airliner had not been warned before it was shot down (which, of course, was a complete lie and contradicted all the documentary evidence). Gaddafi then began to plan options for revenge.
Initially Gaddafi planned to attack Haifa with the Libyan air force, but due to operational difficulties this option was rejected. Then the Libyan dictator ordered the commander of an Egyptian submarine, which was stationed in a Libyan port, to sink the passenger liner “Queen Elizabeth 2”, which was heading to Israel with hundreds of passengers on board. The submarine had already left the port and was heading towards the passenger ship to sink it with a torpedo.
But by the miraculous providence of the Almighty, the Egyptian authorities, who were preparing a surprise attack on Israel, were not interested in such a large terrorist attack, which could attract the attention of Israeli intelligence and reveal the Egyptian preparations for the war. So the commander of the Egyptian submarine was ordered to cancel the operation and the submarine was returned to Egypt, to the great disappointment of the Libyan dictator.
But Gaddafi was not desperate. Instead, he decided to plan another deadly terrorist attack, the essence of which was to shoot down an Israeli El-Al airplane flying from Rome, the capital of Italy, where the security system was the weakest compared to other European airports. The plane was supposed to be shot down with a shoulder-mounted missile. Two similar missiles, model SA-7 (“Strela-2”, a Soviet man-portable air defense system), were delivered by Egyptian diplomatic mail to the Black September terrorist cell, the most trusted of the Libyan regime.
About a year earlier, in May 1972, this deadly group, completely under Fatah and the PLO, had hijacked a Sabena passenger plane from Vienna to Tel Aviv. The plane landed at Ben Gurion airport and in the course of the daring “Isotope” operation it was rescued by “Sayeret Matkal” (a special unit of the IDF General Staff Intelligence Department), who managed, by the grace of the Almighty, to kill or capture all the hijackers. Incidentally, a Sayaret Matkal officer, the future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was wounded in this operation.
It was the Black September that was also responsible for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.
The Soviet missiles were given to the group’s leader, Amin al-Hindi, may the villain’s name be erased from human memory. (By the way, even though al-Hindi was one of the organizers of the Munich assassination, many years later, after the Oslo agreement, the Rabin-Peres government let him come to the Palestinian Authority, where he became one of the highest-ranking Fatah leaders and head of the PA’s intelligence service.) Al-Hindi arrived at a hideout near Fiumicino Airport, where he planned to carry out that terrible terrorist attack.
By the grace and miracles of the Almighty, information about the operation reached Israel through one of the most important Israeli agents in Egypt (Ashraf Marwan, who also transmitted the famous Yom Kippur war warning). The head of the Mossad, Zvi Zamir, arrived in Italy, alerted the Italian secret services and they raided the apartment that served as a refuge and arrested the terrorists (later releasing them all)...
Anyway, the terrible attack planned by Gaddafi was miraculously avoided. “Give thanks to the L-rd, for He is good and His mercy is everlasting” (Psalms 107:1)!
Libya today — stuck in a civil war
The civil war that broke out in Libya about ten years ago led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, but it is not over. Fueled by a host of foreign interests, including Turkey supporting the National Accord Government group on the one hand and Russia, Egypt, and the UAE behind the rival Libyan National Army on the other, this civil war continues to this day.
As mentioned in the first part of this article, the amazing fact is that the final overthrow of the Libyan regime, one of the most serious threats to Israel, happened in 2012 on a holy and special day: Simchat Torah, the day that Chassidim call “The Rebbe`s Day”.
Moreover, it is difficult not to notice that the fighting that has been going on in Libya for about ten years now has actually become the fulfillment and reocurrence of the miracle of the “defeat of Egypt by its first born” that took place on the day before the Exodus, when the first born Egyptians opposed the Egyptian army, seeking to free the people of Israel and thus trying to avoid the execution of the “execution of the first born”. This internal warfare between the forces of evil has been taking place in recent years in almost all the Arab countries, especially in those that were formerly, and still are today, considered the most hostile to us (Syria, Iraq, and Libya).
The reoccurrence of this miracle, along with all the other signs of the coming Redemption that have been taking place before our eyes in recent years, leads us inevitably to the simple conclusion that we are on the starting point of experiencing true and complete Redemption. It is therefore an obligation to continue to study Torah, especially the works of Chassidism and issues related to Redemption and Moshiach, and to try our best to keep the commandments, to give thanks to the Almighty, blessed be His Name, for the great miracles and to promote those miracles everywhere. This is how we will be honored with Redemption in the very near future, in joy and gladness, in the good things evident and unfolding before us.