Unit 8200 is a staple of Israeli intelligence and is responsible for collecting signal intelligence and code decryption.
Dr. Ronen Bergman's new book, "By Any Means Necessary – Israel's Covert War for its POWs and MIAs" details both the incident and workings of the committee tasked with investigating what will later be known as the "cardboard case."
The events leading up to the explosion can be traced back to the mid 1990s, when Hezbollah – in an attempt to demoralize both the IDF and the Southern Lebanese Army (SLA) - launched a series of blitz attacks on both militaries' posts.
On the night of February 20, 1999, Hezbollah targeted an SLA's 20th Battalion headquarters in Jezzine.
According to the IDF Lebanon Liaison Unit's inquest, the Shiite group fired six missiles at the post, hitting its first floor and targeting its weapons storage space. Other constructions were targeted using explosives.
A canvass of the area performed by the SLA regiment commander the morning after the attack, yielded a cell phone, two empty AK-47 clips and a foot-long fuse.
The inquest report goes on to detail a disagreement which soon ensued between the IDF and the SLA, the former claiming the majority of the damage had to have been caused by explosives rather than by missiles, while the latter claimed the opposite.
The incident reportedly ended with a footnote: "The cell phone will be turned over to Unit 8200."
Fire in the hole
And so the cell phone's journey began: The SLA intelligence officer who recovered the device turned it over to his Israeli counterpart, who, in turn, took it to the unit's base in northern Israel, where the officer tasked with monitoring Hezbollah looked it over and took in to Unit 8200's base in central Israel.
Somewhere along the line, however, basic safety protocols were neglected, as the device never underwent the necessary x-ray procedures meant to ensure it was explosives-free.
Unit 8200 had high hopes for the recovered cell phone, assuming they would be able to extract details which would bolster Hezbollah surveillance. The battery, however, was depleted and in need of recharging.
Once in the hands of the analysts in the unit's top secret lab, the two officers tasked with probing it attempted to ascertain whether it was checked for explosives.
The officer who delivered the device explained that he did not know, but assumed it had. The two then attempted to hook the cell phone to the appropriate battery charger.
The cell phone detonated, severely wounding both officers. One of them lost his hand.
To this day, the blast – which tore through the lab and echoed across the vast base, where thousands of soldiers are stationed – is remembered as one of the most traumatizing events in the unit's history.