They stay put, identify the source of the fire, and take it out. However, since it has never known a season of peace, and since it has been forced to evolve through a bloody process of trial and error, the Unit has reached an unmatched level of precision. It is a luxury that, along with our electric drink stirrers and mink hangers, has gone quickly out of style. America must now learn some of the lessons perfected long ago by the Israelis—the art of working the gaps, fighting, by stealth and ingenuity, beyond the stately rules of U.
The United States, which all at once finds itself in this murky nowhere, has traditionally operated, quite naturally, with a big-country mentality. For example, while hunting a terrorist, Rangers might establish a perimeter and roar in with dozens of soldiers descending by rope from Black Hawk helicopters—a strategy that proved disastrous in Somalia. The Israeli commandos fight like partisans, in small numbers, often in disguise, rising, attacking, fading away.
Come kill us! A successful mission goes off in secrecy, the enemy realizing it has been bested only when the battle is over. It is a gambling style of lightning raids that depends on surprise, planning, and skill; it is a style that has grown up with the challenges of terrorism, an endless war without borders or clear targets or clear ends; and it is a style that now, and in the coming decade, offers the best model for the American military. Special Forces. If you are a kid killing ants, you want to use the magnifying glass.
Well, the magnifying glass is Special Forces. It was there in Beirut, when, in response to cross-border attacks, 14 Lebanese planes were blown up on the runway at the international airport; in Tunis, Tunisia, when Abu Jihad, the P. One day, at a meeting of his officers, Ehud Barak, who was then commanding the Unit, passed around three photos—grainy shots showing Arabs in their middle years.
Those at the meeting were certain that these men were involved in the killings at Munich. The Mossad had tracked them to Beirut, where two of them were living in the same building; the third was living just across the street. The Mossad had also come up with blueprints of each building, which Barak spread out in front of his officers. Before a mission, the leaders of the Unit suggest and debate dozens of strategies; when a course is agreed upon, they go to work on logistics, practicing on a model of the target, counting out the steps.
In planning operations, the Unit, which has its own budget and its own runway, is given incredible freedom, needing only a final go-ahead from the top leaders of the country. In one instance, when an official questioned the effectiveness of Sayeret Matkal, members of the Unit quickly drew up an operation, then kidnapped and held senior officers from the general staff, making their case in a powerful way.
In the days leading up to the raid on Black September, the commandos drilled on a housing development in Tel Aviv. In April , the elite team, which, as mentioned, included Ehud Barak disguised as a brunette and also Amiram Levine, later a deputy head of the Mossad, disguised as a blonde, was taken by ship to within a few miles of Lebanon. From there, the commandos climbed into Zodiacs, rubber dinghies with outboard engines; they kicked the engines into gear and roared off toward the coast.
That night, a group of Israeli paratroopers were also to destroy a weapons plant in the coastal city of Tyre as another group destroyed the six-story headquarters of George Habash, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which pioneered modern skyjacking.
This was to be the kind of multi-front operation that gives the terrorists a sense of a war coming into their own home. Within a few hundred yards of the beach, commandos cut the engines, and the elite team was rowed to shore.
Once they were on land, three Mossad cars drove them through the city, and they were dropped a few blocks from the target. On the street, the commandos, disguised as couples, walked right by a Lebanese policeman. Barak and Levine stood guard while three teams went into the buildings. In front of each apartment door, the teams placed an explosive.
A signal was given, and each team set off its charge. Muki Betser, a lanky, dark-haired officer who led one of the teams, followed his blast through the doorway. He ran down the hall toward the bedroom. He knew the way from the blueprints. The bedroom door opened, and Betser recognized a face from the photographs. The door slammed, but Betser fired his machine gun.
He kicked open the door. The man inside was dead. From upstairs, Betser could hear the rat-a-tat of gunfire. He ran outside. The lookouts had been spotted by a patrol. Betser could see Barak and Levine in their wigs, firing their Uzis. Several Lebanese soldiers were killed. The Mossad showed up with the cars, and the men sped downhill to the beach.
They could hear several blasts as the paratroopers hit the headquarters of the Popular Front. Three leaders of Black September were killed that night. In the years since, with one exception, all of those suspected of taking part in the Munich massacre have been hunted down and killed. There has never been any footage of these attacks, and the Israelis have never taken credit. The last survivor is hiding in Africa, spared so he can tell the story.
From the beginning, the Israelis, conditioned by the legacy of the Holocaust, in which, in the popular imagination, the Jews had reacted passively in the face of annihilation, vowed to retaliate against any attack. Instead of merely defending themselves, the Israelis would launch counterstrikes, deep thrusts into enemy territory. The Israelis had realized that if a terrorist is determined to attack the country, especially if he is willing to lose his own life, beyond a certain point there is little that can be done.
From its beginning, a big part of the Zionist project was self-defense—for the first time in thousands of years, Jews would fight in their own armies. It all started with the Haganah, an underground force which protected settlements in the Galilee. Within the Haganah was the Palmach, an elite force that to this day serves as a model for Israeli soldiers. Poorly supplied and outnumbered, the Palmach, which consisted largely of visionary Jews from Poland and Russia, developed a style that depended on speed and mobility, on outthinking the enemy.
One of its leaders was Yitzhak Rabin, the future prime minister, who, in the mids, led the famous raid on Atlit, a British internment camp where hundreds of Jewish refugees were being held. The was led by a young officer named Ariel Sharon, now the prime minister but then just a cannonball of a kid who stirred his men into fierce loyalty.
For the , the Sinai Desert, with its tremendous vacancies and hard skies, was like the sea. They crossed it again and again. In retaliation for a terrorist attack, the blew up more than 40 houses in Jordan, killing 69 people who Sharon mistakenly thought had cleared out—a tragedy that haunts him and is one of the escapades that has branded him a brutal adventurer.
Now it is only us. He wanted them to be friends and brothers, a secret elite, the hidden righteous, like the 36, the holy few who, in the Talmud, unknown to the public and even to themselves, save the world from destruction. Unit members were not recruited so much as discovered, picked out from posts across the military for their intelligence or dedication or skill. There are two basic types in the Unit: little guys like Ehud Barak, who have some special talent —Barak can pick any lock in the world in about eight seconds—or big guys like Benjamin Netanyahu, who are the packhorses of the troop.
Within the Unit, there is an almost standard-style soldier: first-generation Israelis who spent their youth on farms in the North, blistered by work and filled with ideology, the first batch of that new-model Jew the founders of the nation had vowed to build from the ashes of the old world.
These men are dark and handsome, or short and squat, or wide-open and blond, or green-eyed, or excitable, or cool, but all of them, no matter what else, have in their eyes the same grim, calculating gaze—to them, there is no problem without a solution. For Israel, the face of modern terrorism emerged only in the mids, after the Six- Day War and the Yom Kippur War, in which Israel defeated all of its enemies; terrorism, the refuge of a defeated faction, took over where conventional war had failed.
In those years, Yasser Arafat and other leaders of the P. To them, the Israelis, for all their military strength, suffered a fatal flaw—an almost hysterical aversion to casualties. In Israel, as in America, democratic societies that hinge on the individual, a tremendous value is placed on the life of even the lowliest soldier. Arafat believed that if he killed enough Israelis they would soon give up and go home—to which home, he did not say.
Between and , the P. They are too afraid of dying. With the appearance of this new terrorism, the Unit shifted its mission. The unit is best known for Operation Thunderbolt, commonly known as Operation Entebbe , in which it rescued more than Air France passengers hijacked and flown to Uganda by PFLP-EO terrorists,  killing 52 enemy combatants while losing only the assault element commander, Yonatan Netanyahu , and three hostages.
In Israel's first special operations unit— Unit —was disbanded following the outcry provoked by the Qibya massacre. This left the IDF without a dedicated special-forces unit other than the Navy's Shayetet 13 , a naval commando unit which could not fully replace Unit Arnan's idea backed by David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin was to create a unit that would recruit only the best and the brightest of Israeli youth.
Prospective fighters were to be hand-picked, being physically and intellectually the best soldiers available. Originally part of Aman's Unit , Sayeret Matkal began to operate independently a year later as the General Staff's special operations force,  modeled after the British Special Air Service. Members of the unit were trained by Bedouin trackers in order to obtain a better understanding of their adversaries. Arnan's vision for Sayeret Matkal of which he was the first commander was of a unit that would carry out strategic intelligence-gathering and other operations; as such it would receive its missions only from the General Staff.
Sayeret Matkal would also evaluate new weapons and doctrines that could influence the entire IDF. Due to the extensive training, planning and preparation that had to be undertaken before its missions, Sayeret Matkal ended up not seeing any action during the Six-Day War. It was however engaged extensively in the following War of Attrition. After , with the rise of Palestinian political violence perpetrated by groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO , Sayeret Matkal began developing the first hostage-rescue and counter-terrorism techniques in the world.
Beginning with Operation Isotope , the unit carried out several high-profile operations that thrust it into the limelight as an "elite paratroopers" unit Sayeret Matkal's existence was classified at the time. In , before the Munich massacre , Sayeret Matkal's operatives were sent to West Germany to cooperate with German authorities and, if necessary, perform the hostage-rescue themselves.
Their advice though, was not heeded. The Yom Kippur War in brought a profound change to the unit. With Israel fighting on two fronts and the General Staff busy with managing the war, Sayeret Matkal found itself without missions to perform. Sayeret Matkal officers then split into two camps: those who believed that the unit should be kept in reserve and not be lightly sent to missions where it could endure heavy casualties, and those that wanted to go into action, even if that meant missions with little planning and more akin to a commando force than to the strategic-oriented Sayeret Matkal.
The latter prevailed and Sayeret Matkal was tasked with operations on both fronts. After the war, Sayeret Matkal began developing plans for wartime in advance, so that when war came, the unit could go into action immediately, without waiting for the General Staff's orders and missions. A reserve company of Sayeret Matkal was also designated specifically for cooperation with the Israeli Air Force , shown by the war to be lacking. This would later evolve into Shaldag Unit. In Sayeret Matkal suffered a heavy blow when a failed rescue attempt resulted in the Ma'alot massacre.
Two years later came the most famous mission of the unit when it spearheaded Operation Entebbe to rescue hostages held in Uganda. The mission was a resounding success, although there were 4 hostages killed as well as the commander of the Unit, Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu. The Sayeret has seen extensive service since. It has been mentioned in relation to several recent operations, including Operation Orchard , but these have not been confirmed by the IDF. It was the original developer of helicopter infiltration techniques in Israel.
In addition, their extensive use of the Uzi led them to convince Israel Military Industries to produce an Uzi with a folding stock for increased accuracy while maintaining its small frame. The unit was kept top-secret during its initial years. Fighters and commanders were selectively hand-picked, based on personal acquaintances. Since the s, while still secretive, the unit opened to voluntary recruits. Twice a year it holds a notoriously grueling selection camp Gibbush for potential recruits lasting several sleepless days.
The recruits are constantly monitored by doctors and psychologists. Those who make it through with a passing grade are admitted. During the s, this selection practice was picked up by other IDF special forces Sayeret. Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz planned to unify all such camps to prevent recruit burn-outs and medical injury by over-enthusiastic youths. Once admitted to the unit, recruits train for 18—19 months, with heavy emphasis on small arms , martial arts, navigation, camouflage , reconnaissance and other skills required for survival behind enemy lines.
They must also complete the kilometre 93 mi Beret March to receive their red beret.
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The first candidates for the units were solely fighters and commanders who were selectively hand-picked by other members based on personal acquaintances. During the s, while still secretive, the unit finally opened to voluntary recruits. Doctors and psychologists constantly monitor the candidates.
Those who make it through with a passing grade are admitted to join the basic training. Those who make it to the basic training are subjected to the 20 monthly training plan. The training course relays with a heavy emphasis on small arms, martial arts, orienteering, camouflage, reconnaissance, and other skills essential for survival behind enemy lines. The training regime consists of the following:. The rest of the training is devoted to long-range reconnaissance patrols, especially navigation, which is of vast value in the unit.
While most navigation training is done in pairs, like in every other unit in the Israeli Defence Forces IDF , Sayeret Matkal is one of a handful of IDF elite units that conducts long-range solo navigation exercises. They have taken part in dozens, probably hundreds or even thousands of operations in their history. Sayeret Matkal is best known for Operation Thunderbolt , more commonly but mistakenly known as Operation Entebbe.
They had only one casualty, the unit commander, Jonathan Netanyahu, who was killed by enemy gunfire. But, not all of them were so successful; in , they failed to save Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman who was held, hostage. His captors killed him during the failed rescue attempt. On May , , Sayeret commandos disguised themselves as Lod Airport maintenance personnel before storming a Sebena Belgian Airlines jetliner that Black September terrorists had hijacked.
Operation Crate 3 — In June of , concern was mounting over the fate of three Israeli airmen who had been taken captured by Syrian authorities. The decision was made that Israel would need bargaining chips of their own to be in a position to negotiate their release. In response, Sayeret operatives, in an operation that has become their trademark, kidnapped five Syrian intelligence officers who were conducting a border tour with Palestinian terrorists at the time.
On the night of April , , Sayeret commandos, one disguised as a woman, conducted the assassinations of Black September leaders. What was remarkable about this operation was that the targets were in three separate locations and all in West Beirut, which was enemy-held territory. Although they lost the Unit commander, Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu, which led the assault and three hostages, the mission was successful.
The latter prevailed and Sayeret Matkal was tasked with operations on both fronts. After the war, Sayeret Matkal began developing plans for wartime in advance, so that when war came, the unit could go into action immediately, without waiting for the General Staff's orders and missions. A reserve company of Sayeret Matkal was also designated specifically for cooperation with the Israeli Air Force , shown by the war to be lacking.
This would later evolve into Shaldag Unit. In , Sayeret Matkal suffered a heavy blow when a failed rescue attempt resulted in the Ma'alot massacre. Two years later, on the 4 July , came the unit's most famous mission when it spearheaded Operation Entebbe to rescue hostages held in Uganda by at least six Palestinians and two German terrorists supported by regular Ugandan soldiers. It was the original developer of helicopter infiltration techniques in Israel.
In addition, their extensive use of the Uzi led them to convince Israel Military Industries to produce an Uzi with a folding stock for increased accuracy while maintaining its small frame. In , the unit received an honorable mention for its activities during Operation Protective Edge. The unit was kept top-secret during its initial years and its mere existence was never officially acknowledged until the s. Since the s, while still secretive, the unit opened to voluntary recruits.
Twice a year it holds a notoriously grueling selection camp Gibbush for potential recruits lasting several sleepless days. The recruits are constantly monitored by doctors and psychologists. Those who make it through with a passing grade are admitted. During the s, this selection practice was picked up by other IDF special forces Sayeret. The basic requirements for being considered to serve in the unit are a medical profile of 97 with no disqualifying clauses a quality category "kaba" of 52 or more and an initial psychotechnic grading "dapar" of 50 or more.
Once admitted to the unit, the recruits' training lasts for about two years,  with heavy emphasis on small arms , martial arts , navigation , camouflage , reconnaissance , and other skills required for survival behind enemy lines. They must also complete the —kilometre 75—93 mi Beret March in the final four days to receive their red beret.
Toward the end of their training, Sayeret Matkal recruits, along with recruits for other special forces units and pilot cadets, undergo a two-week course in enduring captivity. After a surprise mock kidnapping, they are held in prison-like conditions and subjected to interrogation, threats, and physical violence, and forced to perform demeaning activities.
Today, all the soldiers in the unit undergo officer's course at the end of their training and move on to hold positions in the unit as well as other IDF units. The combat soldiers are required to sign on for an additional 36 months in addition to their mandatory service term. Most of the combat soldiers will commence an undergraduate university degree towards the end of their service. Although Sayeret Matkal has its own insignia, it is also one of only two units in the IDF, the other being Duvdevan , whose soldiers are not allowed to wear it in public due to its classified nature.
This lack of insignia often leads to Sayeret Matkal operators being recognized as such, as the fact that Matkal troopers don't wear insignia is well known. Sayeret Matkal veterans have gone on to achieve high positions in Israel's military and political echelons. Ehud Barak 's career is an example: a draftee in , he later succeeded Unit commando Lt.
Meir Har-Zion in becoming Israel's most decorated soldier. In he became the 10th Prime Minister of Israel. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Special forces unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Military unit. Israel Defense Forces. Retrieved 28 August Retrieved 9 September Retrieved Secret Soldier. ISBN Skyhorse Pub. The USA Today. Ninety Minutes at Entebbe. New York: Bantam Books. The Rosen Publishing Group. Columbia University Press. Yedioth Ahronoth in Hebrew. Retrieved 12 September Historical Dictionary of Israeli Intelligence.
Scarecrow Press. Links Verlag. July 13,
General Staff Reconnaissance Unit , more commonly known as Sayeret Matkal (Hebrew: סיירת מטכ״ל), special reconnaissance unit (sayeret) of the General. General Staff Reconnaissance Unit , more commonly known as Sayeret Matkal, special reconnaissance unit of the General Staff, or simply "The Unit", is the prime special forces unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Sayeret Matkal, also called General Staff Reconnaissance Unit or The Unit, elite commando unit of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) founded in by IDF.