By Amos Harel and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz
Israeli counterterrorism experts are critical of how Indian security forces handled last week’s terror attacks in Mumbai, especially their raid on the local Chabad center, Nariman House.
While acknowledging that Israel has never experienced a coordinated attack of such scope, the Israelis said the Indians failed to contain the attacks and raided Nariman House too lackadaisically.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Tzur, a former commander of the police’s counterterror unit Yamam, who now runs a security consulting firm, acknowledged that when terrorists attack more than seven sites simultaneously, “it’s very hard to handle.”
However, he said, this difficulty was compounded by the lack of prior intelligence, “which is the colossal failure in this story. This was an organization in which dozens of people were surely involved.”
“To the Indians’ credit, they were determined and sought contact [with the enemy] all the time,” Tzur continued, adding that a terrorist takeover of a hotel is “the nightmare of every counterterrorism unit,” because it is hard to effectively “cleanse” so large a site.
However, he said, this excuse did not apply to the much smaller Nariman House.
The 12-hour battle to liberate the building was “unreasonable,” he said, because “there’s no chance in the world that captives will survive an incident that doesn’t end within minutes of the break-in.”
The Indians, he added, apparently assumed the hostages had already been killed.
Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, formerly a senior officer in the army’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit, said the Indians had operated as if there were no hostages.
“When you’re rescuing captives, you enter fast, with maximum force, and try to reach the hostages as quickly as possible, even at the price of casualties,” he said. “Here, they operated much more cautiously.”
Television pictures from Nariman House also raised questions about the professionalism of the Indian forces. For instance, it is not clear why the area was not cleared of bystanders, or why the comparatively risky option of a helicopter-borne assault was chosen.
Moreover, the explosion that blew in the ground-floor door occurred before soldiers landed on the rooftop, whereas for maximum effect, they should have occurred simultaneously, the Israelis said.
INDIAN MEDIA ANGRY
Indian media have reacted angrily to criticism from Israeli defense officials of the Indian commando operation against the terrorists who took control of Chabad house in Mumbai.
Eight hostages inside the center were killed, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka. All of the victims were Jewish, Israeli or both.
Israeli and international media quoted Israeli security officials as claiming the operation was risky and premature. Indian media published the criticisms at length, and although there has yet to be an official reaction from the Indian government, local journalists and television commentators have reacted strongly.
They accuse Israel of casting doubt on the effectiveness of their “brave” Indian commandos, and claim that Israel has a bad record in hostage-rescue operations, aside from the successful Operation Entebbe in 1976.
Eli Blotserkovski, the political envoy to the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, told Haaretz, “This emphasizes the need for all the international community, not just India and Israel, to act in a coordinated manner against terrorism.”
Another Israeli diplomat in India said Israel needs to be careful not to criticize India.
“Particularly in the present situation we have an important strategic relationship with them and we stand with them in a shared struggle against terrorism,” he said.