Sayeret Matkal

Sayeret Matkal

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Sayeret Matkal is a special forces
Sayeret
Sayeret , literally means "reconnaissance unit" in the Israel Defense Forces . In practice, these units specialize in commando and other special forces roles, in addition to reconnaissance...

 unit of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), which is subordinated to the intelligence directorate Aman. First and foremost a field intelligence-gathering unit, conducting deep reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 behind enemy lines to obtain strategic intelligence, Sayeret Matkal is also tasked with counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism
Counter-terrorism is the practices, tactics, techniques, and strategies that governments, militaries, police departments and corporations adopt to prevent or in response to terrorist threats and/or acts, both real and imputed.The tactic of terrorism is available to insurgents and governments...

 and hostage rescue beyond Israel's borders. The unit is modeled after the British Army's
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

, taking the unit's motto "Who Dares Wins
Who Dares Wins
Who Dares, Wins, Latin: "Qui audet adipiscitur" is a motto that originated with the British Special Air Service. It is normally credited to the founder of the SAS, David Stirling. The motto has been used by nine elite special forces units around the world that in some way have historical ties to...

". It is directly subordinate to the IDF's Directorate of Military Intelligence
Aman (IDF)
The Directorate of Military Intelligence is Israel's central, overarching military intelligence, of the Israel Defense Forces. Aman was created in 1950, when the Intelligence Department was spun off from the IDF's General Staff ; the Intelligence Department itself was composed largely of former...

. It is known in the IDF as "the Unit".

The unit is best known for Operation Thunderbolt, commonly known as Operation Entebbe
Operation Entebbe
Operation Entebbe was a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Special Forces of the Israel Defense Forces at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976. A week earlier, on 27 June, an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists and...

, in which it rescued more than 100 Air France
Air France
Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

 passengers hijacked and flown to Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

 by PFLP-EO militants, killing 52 enemy combatants while losing only the assault element commander, Yonatan Netanyahu, and three hostages.

History


In 1954 Israel's first special operations unit - Unit 101
Unit 101
Unit 101 was a special forces unit of the Israeli Defense Forces , founded and commanded by Ariel Sharon on orders from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in August 1953...

 - was disbanded following the outcry provoked by the Qibya massacre
Qibya massacre
The Qibya massacre, also known as the Qibya incident, occurred in October 1953 when Israeli troops under Ariel Sharon attacked the village of Qibya in the West Bank. Sixty-nine Palestinian Arabs, two thirds of them women and children were killed. Forty-five houses, a school, and a mosque were...

. This left the IDF without a dedicated special-forces unit other than the Navy's Shayetet 13
Shayetet 13
Shayetet 13 is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. The unit is considered one of the primary Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces . S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and...

, a naval commando unit which could not fully replace Unit 101. In 1957 Avraham Arnan (
NE
-Places:England* NE postcode area, a postcode for the City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and WearItaly* Ne, Liguria, a comune in the Province of GenoaNiger* Niger, ISO 3166-1 country code** .ne, the country code top level domain for Niger...

 Herling), a former yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

 student and Palmach
Palmach
The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Palmach was established on May 15, 1941...

 fighter, petitioned the IDF General Staff to create a unit that could be dispatched to enemy held territory to carry out top secret intelligence-gathering missions. Arnan's idea (backed by David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

 and Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

) 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 157, Sayeret Matkal began to operate independently a year later as the General Staff's special operations force, modeled after the British Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

. Members of the unit were trained by Bedouin
Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

 trackers in order to obtain a better understanding of their adversaries. Established a year after the formation of Israel's first helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

 squadron, the close co-operation between the two units allowed Sayeret Matkal to deploy longer and deeper inside Arab territory than its predecessor. 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
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

. It was however engaged extensively in the following War of Attrition
War of Attrition
The international community and both countries attempted to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The Jarring Mission of the United Nations was supposed to ensure that the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 242 would be observed, but by late 1970 it was clear that this mission had been...

. After 1967, with the rise of Palestinian terrorism
Palestinian political violence
Palestinian political violence refers to acts of violence undertaken to further the Palestinian cause. These political objectives include self-determination in and sovereignty over Palestine, the liberation of Palestine and establishment of a Palestinian state, either in place of both Israel and...

 perpetrated by groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 (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 1972, before the Munich massacre
Munich massacre
The Munich massacre is an informal name for events that occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Bavaria in southern West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed by the Palestinian group Black September. Members of Black September...

, 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. In the subsequent Operation Wrath of God
Operation Wrath of God
Operation Wrath of God ,This title was an invention of later writers, and was most likely not used by the Mossad itself. also called Operation Bayonet, was a covert operation directed by Israel and the Mossad to assassinate individuals alleged to have been directly or indirectly involved in the...

, Sayeret Matkal struck the PLO in Beirut.

The Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

 in 1973 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
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

, shown by the war to be lacking. This would later evolve into Shaldag Unit
Shaldag Unit
Shaldag , also known as Special Air-Ground Designating Team and Unit 5101, is an elite Israeli Air Force commando unit.- History :...

.

In 1974 Sayeret Matkal suffered a heavy blow when a failed rescue attempt resulted in the Ma'alot massacre
Ma'alot massacre
The Ma'alot massacre was a terrorist attack which included a two-day hostage-taking of 115 people which ended in the deaths of over 25 hostages. It began when three armed Palestinian terrorists of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine entered Israel from Lebanon...

. The debacle led to the creation of the Yamam
Yamam
The Yamam ) is an elite Border police, not civilian Police counter-terrorism unit in Israel. The Yamam is capable of both hostage-rescue operations and offensive take-over raids against targets in civilian areas...

 to deal with domestic counter-terrorism/hostage-rescue missions, while Sayeret Matkal would focus on foreign counter-terrorism/hostage-rescue. Two years later came the most famous mission of the unit when it spearheaded Operation Entebbe
Operation Entebbe
Operation Entebbe was a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Special Forces of the Israel Defense Forces at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976. A week earlier, on 27 June, an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists and...

 to rescue hostages held in Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

. 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
Operation Orchard
Operation Orchard was an Israeli airstrike on a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria carried out just after midnight on September 6, 2007. The White House and Central Intelligence Agency later confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility...

, but these have not been confirmed by the IDF.

Although a top-secret unit, Sayeret Matkal had tremendous influence on the IDF. It was the original developer of helicopter infiltration techniques in Israel. In addition, their extensive use of the Uzi
Uzi submachine gun
The Uzi is a family of Israeli open bolt, blowback-operated submachine guns. Smaller variants are considered to be machine pistols. The Uzi was one of the first weapons to use a telescoping bolt design which allows for the magazine to be housed in the pistol grip for a shorter weapon.The first Uzi...

 led them to convince Israel Military Industries
Israel Military Industries
Israel Weapons Industries , formerly the "Magen" division of the Israel Military Industries Ltd. is an Israeli firearms manufacturer. In 2005, the Small Arms Division of IMI was privatized....

 to produce an Uzi with a folding stock for increased accuracy while maintaining its small frame.

Recruitment and training


The unit was kept top-secret during its initial years. Fighters and commanders were selectively hand-picked, based on personal acquaintances. Since the 1970s, 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 1990s, this selection practice was picked up by other IDF special forces (Sayeret
Sayeret
Sayeret , literally means "reconnaissance unit" in the Israel Defense Forces . In practice, these units specialize in commando and other special forces roles, in addition to reconnaissance...

). Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz
Dan Halutz
' is an Israeli Air Force Lt. General and former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and commander of the Israeli Air Force. Halutz was appointed as Chief of Staff on June 1, 2005. On January 17, 2007 he announced his resignation. He has a degree in economics. He was born to a Mizrahi...

 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 28–29 months, with heavy emphasis on small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

, martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

, navigation
Navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

, camouflage
Camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

, reconnaissance
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 and other skills required for survival behind enemy lines. They must also complete the 150 kilometres (93.2 mi) Beret March to receive their red beret.
The training regime consists of the following:
  • Four months of basic infantry
    Infantry
    Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

     training, held in the Paratroopers
    Paratroopers Brigade (IDF)
    The Paratroopers Brigade , also known as the 35th Brigade, is a unit of paratroopers within the Israel Defense Forces , and forms a major part of the Infantry Corps....

     basic training base; it is part of the regular Paratroopers basic training routine.
  • Two months advanced infantry training, within the unit.
  • Three weeks parachuting course in the IDF Parachuting School.
  • Five weeks counter-terror (CT) course in the IDF Counter-Terror Warfare School, followed by more inner-unit CT training.
  • The rest of the training is dedicated to long-range reconnaissance patrol training, and especially to navigation/orienteering, which is of vast importance in the unit. While most of the orienteering training is done in pairs for safety reasons, as in every other unit in the IDF, Sayeret Matkal is one of the handful of IDF units which conducts long-range solo navigation exercises.


Although Sayeret Matkal has its own insignia, it is also one of the few units in the IDF whose soldiers are not allowed to wear it in public due to its classified nature. Ironically, 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.

Notable Sayeret Matkal figures


Despite being a clandestine and relatively small army unit, former Sayeret Matkal veterans have a disproportionate influence on the army and public service. This may partly be because rigorous screening and training ensures that only the most capable and motivated Israeli youths are accepted by the unit as fighters. Sayeret Matkal operatives have gone on to achieve high positions in Israel's military and political echelons, and several have become IDF Generals and members of the Knesset
Knesset
The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

. Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

's career is an example: a draftee in 1959, he later succeeded Unit 101
Unit 101
Unit 101 was a special forces unit of the Israeli Defense Forces , founded and commanded by Ariel Sharon on orders from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in August 1953...

 commando Lt. Meir Har-Zion
Meir Har-Zion
Meir Har-Zion is a former Israeli military commando.As a key member of Unit 101 he was highly praised by Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan who described him as "the finest of our commando soldiers, the best soldier ever to emerge in the IDF." His three-year military career was ended by injuries sustained...

 in becoming Israel's most decorated soldier. While with Sayeret Matkal, Ehud Barak participated in many operations, eventually leading operations Isotope in 1972 and Spring of Youth in 1973. He later advanced in his military career to become the IDF Chief of Staff
Ramatkal
The Chief of the General Staff, also known as the Commander-in-Chief of the Israel Defense Forces is the supreme commander and Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. At any given time, the Chief of Staff is the only active officer holding the IDF's highest rank, Rav Aluf , which is usually...

 between 1991 and 1995. In 1999 Ehud Barak became the 10th Prime Minister of Israel
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

. Other notable members include:
  • Uzi Yairi – Unit Commander, formerly head of the IDF Paratroopers Brigade, killed in action
    Killed in action
    Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

     while off-duty during Savoy Operation
    Savoy Operation
    The Savoy Hotel Attack was a terrorist attack by members of the Palestine Liberation Organization against the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 4–5, 1975.- The attack :...

    .
  • Nechemya Cohen
    Nechemya Cohen
    Nechemiah Cohen is the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israel Defense Forces [IDF).. He shares this honour with close friend and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Major Amitai Hason. He received five decorations - one Medal of Distinguished Service and four Chief Of Staff Citations...

     – The Unit's and the IDF's most decorated soldier (with Barak). Killed in action. Beit Nechemiah was built in his memory by "the Unit".
  • Benjamin Netanyahu
    Benjamin Netanyahu
    Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

     – unit team leader, MIT
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

     graduate, current (also former) Israeli Prime Minister
  • Iddo Netanyahu
    Iddo Netanyahu
    Iddo Netanyahu is an Israeli physician, author and playwright. He is the younger brother of Benjamin Netanyahu who is the current Prime Minister of Israel and Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed leading the Operation Entebbe hostage rescue mission in 1976 and is considered a war hero.Netanyahu spent...

     – writer and radiologist. Benjamin Netanyahu's younger brother.
  • Yonatan Netanyahu – unit commander, killed in Operation Thunderbolt (Entebbe, Uganda). Benjamin Netanyahu's older brother.
  • Shaul Mofaz
    Shaul Mofaz
    Lt. General Shaul Mofaz is an Israeli politician who serves as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs And Defense Committee at the Knesset...

     – unit deputy commander, later IDF Chief of Staff and Israeli Defense Minister.
  • Moshe Yaalon – unit commander, later IDF Chief of Staff, current Strategic Affairs Minister of Israel
    Strategic Affairs Minister of Israel
    The Strategic Affairs Minister of Israel is the political head of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and a member of the cabinet. The portfolio and ministry was created in 2006 for Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu party had just joined the governing coalition...

    .
  • Danny Yatom
    Danny Yatom
    Danny Yatom is a former Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Labour. Before that he was a Director of the Mossad security service.-Background:...

     – unit deputy commander, later a General, head of Mossad
    Mossad
    The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

     and a Knesset
    Knesset
    The Knesset is the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.-Role in Israeli Government :The legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister , approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government...

     member
  • Avi Dichter
    Avi Dichter
    Avi Dichter is an Israeli politician who currently serves as a member of the Knesset for Kadima. He is a former Minister of Internal Security and Shin Bet director.-Biography:...

     – unit fighter, later head of Israel's General Security Service (Shin Bet), later the minister of internal security
  • Daniel M. Lewin – cofounder of Akamai Technologies
    Akamai Technologies
    Akamai Technologies, Inc. is an Internet content delivery network headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.The company was founded in 1998 by then-MIT graduate student Daniel M. Lewin, and MIT Applied Mathematics professor Tom Leighton...

    , killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11
    American Airlines Flight 11
    American Airlines Flight 11 was American Airlines' daily scheduled morning transcontinental flight from Logan International Airport, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles International Airport, in Los Angeles, California...

     during the September 11 attacks.


There is a widely held misconception that former Israeli Major General and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

 also served in Sayeret Matkal, though as a Major Sharon had founded the IDF's first special-forces unit (Unit 101) in 1953. When Unit 101 was merged into the Paratroopers Brigade in 1954, Sharon became brigade commander, and never served in Sayeret Matkal.

Known operations


Until recently the Israeli army had an official policy of denying the existence of this unit. Operations were generally attributed to "elite paratroopers". Sayeret Matkal operations are still kept classified to this day. However, due to the unit's successes, it soon became a widely-known secret.
  • 1963 – Operation Halutz – first heliborne commando operation using Sikorsky H-34 helicopters in the Sinai desert. This was reconnaissance for Operation ShrakRak to follow. The operation was prompted by information that Egypt had moved an armored division and three infantry brigades into the Sinai desert.
  • 1964 – Operation Shrakrak – the operation for which Halutz was a preparation, very likely the planting of listening or warning devices. This operation was credited with aiding greatly in the victory of the Six-Day War
    Six-Day War
    The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

    . Ehud Barak commanded Sayeret Matkal forces in the field in Operations Halutz and Shrakrak.
  • 1968 – Operation Shock
    Operation Shock
    Operation Shock was a commando operation executed in 1968 by the Israeli commando unit Sayeret Matkal to sabotage of power plant and Nile bridges in Egypt....

     – sabotage of power plant and Nile
    Nile
    The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

     bridges in Egypt
    Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

     (jointly with Israeli Air Force
    Israeli Air Force
    The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

    ).
  • 1968 – Operation Gift – sabotage of 14 Arab airliners in Beirut International Airport, Lebanon
    Lebanon
    Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

    .
  • 1969 – Operations Orchard 22, Orchard 37 - assaults on high voltage wires and a control antenna in Egypt.
  • 1969 – Operation Bulmus 6
    Operation Bulmus 6
    Operation Bulmus 6, also known as the Green Island Raid, was a military raid conducted by special operations units of the Israel Defense Forces against an Egyptian early warning radar and ELINT station located on a small island in the Gulf of Suez on the night of July 19, 1969.-Background:Green...

     – assault on fortified Green Island, Egypt
    Green Island, Egypt
    Green Island or El Jzeera El Khadraa is a small artificial island in the Red Sea at the southern mouth of the Suez Canal.-History:...

     (jointly with Shayetet 13
    Shayetet 13
    Shayetet 13 is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. The unit is considered one of the primary Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces . S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and...

    ).
  • 1969 – Operation Rooster 53
    Operation Rooster 53
    Operation Rooster 53 was an Israeli military operation during the War of Attrition to capture an Egyptian P-12 radar system. Often referred to as merely Operation Rooster, it was carried out on December 26 and 27, 1969...

     – seizing an entire Egyptian radar installation (jointly with Israeli Air Force).
  • 1972 – Operation Isotope – foiling the hijacking of Sabena Flight 571 in Tel Aviv
    Tel Aviv
    Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

    , Israel
    Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

     (hostage
    Hostage
    A hostage is a person or entity which is held by a captor. The original definition meant that this was handed over by one of two belligerent parties to the other or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war...

    s rescue).
  • 1972 – Operation Crate 3 – kidnapping 5 Syrian
    Demographics of Syria
    Syrians today are an overall indigenous Levantine people. While modern-day Syrians are commonly described as Arabs by virtue of their modern-day language and bonds to Arab culture and history...

     intelligence officers.
  • 1973 – Operation Spring of Youth
    Operation Spring of Youth
    The 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon took place on the night of April 9 and early morning of April 10, 1973 when Israel Defense Forces special forces units attacked several Palestine Liberation Organization targets in Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon...

     – killing Black September
    Black September (group)
    The Black September Organization was a Palestinian paramilitary group, founded in 1970. It was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes and officials, and fatal shooting of a West German policeman, during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, their most publicized event...

     terrorist leaders in Beirut
    Beirut
    Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

    , Lebanon (jointly with Shayetet 13).
  • 1973 – Yom Kippur War
    Yom Kippur War
    The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

     – recapture of Mount Hermon from Syrian commandos (jointly with Golani Brigade
    Golani Brigade
    The Golani Brigade is an Israeli infantry brigade that is subordinated to the 36th Division and traditionally associated with the Northern Command. Its symbol is a green tree on a yellow background, and its soldiers wear a brown beret. It is one of the most highly decorated infantry units in the...

    ); deep interdiction ambushes in Egypt and Syria.
  • 1974 – Ma'alot massacre
    Ma'alot massacre
    The Ma'alot massacre was a terrorist attack which included a two-day hostage-taking of 115 people which ended in the deaths of over 25 hostages. It began when three armed Palestinian terrorists of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine entered Israel from Lebanon...

     – school hostages rescue.
  • 1975 – Savoy Operation
    Savoy Operation
    The Savoy Hotel Attack was a terrorist attack by members of the Palestine Liberation Organization against the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, on March 4–5, 1975.- The attack :...

     – hotel hostages rescue.
  • 1976 – Operation Thunderbolt
    Operation Thunderbolt
    Operation Thunderbolt is a one- or two-player shooter arcade game by Taito made in 1988.-Description:Operation Thunderbolt is the sequel to Operation Wolf. Roy Adams and Hardy Jones, two green berets, must save American hostages from a hijacked airliner which was forced to land in the fictional...

     (Operation Jonathan) – hostage rescue follwong Air France
    Air France
    Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

     aircraft hijacking
    Aircraft hijacking
    Aircraft hijacking is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by an individual or a group. In most cases, the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers. Occasionally, however, the hijackers have flown the aircraft themselves, such as the September 11 attacks of 2001...

     to Entebbe
    Entebbe
    Entebbe is a major town in Central Uganda. Located on a Lake Victoria peninsula, the town was at one time, the seat of government for the Protectorate of Uganda, prior to Independence in 1962...

    , Uganda
    Uganda
    Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

    .
  • 1978 – Coastal Road Massacre
    Coastal Road massacre
    The Coastal Road massacre of 1978 was an attack involving the hijacking of a bus on Israel's Coastal Highway in which 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed, and 71 were wounded. The attack was planned by Abu Jihad and carried out by the PLO faction Fatah...

     – bus hostages rescue .
  • 1980 – Misgav Am hostage crisis
    Misgav Am hostage crisis
    The Misgav Am hostage crisis, which began during the night of April 7, 1980, was a raid carried out by a squad of five Palestinian militants, belonging to the Iraqi-backed Arab Liberation Front militant organization, on the northern Israeli kibbutz of Misgav Am in which the militants captured a...

     – Kibbutz
    Kibbutz
    A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

     nursery hostages rescue.
  • 1982 - 1982 Lebanon War
    1982 Lebanon War
    The 1982 Lebanon War , , called Operation Peace for Galilee by Israel, and later known in Israel as the Lebanon War and First Lebanon War, began on 6 June 1982, when the Israel Defense Forces invaded southern Lebanon...

     - deep reconnaissance ahead of Israeli forces (snipers managed to target Yasser Arafat
    Yasser Arafat
    Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

     although they were not allowed to fire)
  • 1984 – Kav 300 affair
    Kav 300 affair
    The Bus 300 affair , also known as Kav 300 affair, was an affair in which Shin Bet members executed two Palestinian bus hijackers, immediately after the hostage crises incident ended and the two militants were captured....

     – bus hostages rescue, see the Shabak's years of crisis.
  • 1988 – Tunis Raid – assassination of Abu Jihad
    Abu Jihad
    Khalil Ibrahim al-Wazir , also known by his kunya "Abu Jihad" , was a Palestinian military leader and founder of the secular nationalist party Fatah...

    , in Tunis
    Tunis
    Tunis is the capital of both the Tunisian Republic and the Tunis Governorate. It is Tunisia's largest city, with a population of 728,453 as of 2004; the greater metropolitan area holds some 2,412,500 inhabitants....

    , Tunisia
    Tunisia
    Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

     (not acknowledged).
  • 1989 – Kidnapping of Sheik Abdul-Karim Obeid, Lebanon
    Lebanon
    Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

     (see Ron Arad
    Ron Arad (pilot)
    Lieutenant Colonel Ron Arad , was an Israeli Air Force weapon systems officer who is officially classified as missing in action since October 1986, but is widely presumed dead...

    ).
  • 1990 – Overcame terrorists who arrived in a boat to Nitzanim
    Nitzanim
    Nitzanim is a kibbutz in southern Israel. Located between Ashkelon and Ashdod on the Nitzanim dunes, it falls under the jurisdiction of Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. In 2006 it had a population of 343....

     (Nadav Padan was decorated for this operation).
  • 1992 – Operation Bramble Bush
    Operation Bramble Bush
    Operation Bramble Bush was an Israeli plan to assassinate Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1992. It was described in full in December 2003 by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, though news reports had circulated about the plot since January 1999...

     – plan to assassinate Iraq
    Iraq
    Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

    i president Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein
    Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

    .
  • 1994 – Mustafa Dirani
    Mustafa Dirani
    Mustafa Dirani was a member and held position of "the head of security" of the Amal movement, a Shi'a militia in Lebanon associated with Syria. In 1987 he started contacts with pro-Iran sources, and eventually he created contacts between them and the rest of the leadership of Amal...

     kidnapping, Lebanon (see Ron Arad
    Ron Arad (pilot)
    Lieutenant Colonel Ron Arad , was an Israeli Air Force weapon systems officer who is officially classified as missing in action since October 1986, but is widely presumed dead...

    ).
  • 1994 – Nachshon Wachsman – failed hostage rescue.
  • 2006 – Second Lebanon War: Operation Sharp and Smooth
    Operation Sharp and Smooth
    During the 2006 Lebanon War, Operation Sharp and Smooth , also known as the Baalbek operation, was an Israel Defense Forces raid on a Hezbollah-run hospital in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley...

     – disrupt weapons smuggling (jointly with the Shaldag Unit
    Shaldag Unit
    Shaldag , also known as Special Air-Ground Designating Team and Unit 5101, is an elite Israeli Air Force commando unit.- History :...

    ); other operations to disrupt weapons smuggling (in one of them the force was discovered and Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Moreno was killed and two others were wounded in the ensuing gun battle).
  • 2007 – Collecting soil samples in Syria
    Syria
    Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

     prior to Operation Orchard
    Operation Orchard
    Operation Orchard was an Israeli airstrike on a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria carried out just after midnight on September 6, 2007. The White House and Central Intelligence Agency later confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility...

    , the bombing of an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor.

The 2003 dissidents



On December 21, 2003 thirteen Sayeret Matkal reservists—the most senior being an officer at the rank of Rav Seren (Major)—presented the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem a letter declaring their refusal to perform military service in the Occupied Territories
Israeli-occupied territories
The Israeli-occupied territories are the territories which have been designated as occupied territory by the United Nations and other international organizations, governments and others to refer to the territory seized by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria...

:
"We have come to tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that we will no longer be accomplices to the reign of oppression in the Territories and the denial of the most elementary human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 of millions of Palestinians, nor shall we be the shield of settlements erected on confiscated land".


The letter aroused strong controversy due to Sayeret Matkal's prestige in Israeli society. It was strongly denounced by mainstream political figures who had their origin in the ranks of the unit, such as former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

 and Binyamin Netanyahu.

None of the signatories were tried, but all were expelled from the ranks of the Sayeret. In what was described as "an effort to stem the tide", the unit's commander circulated among his soldiers and officers a letter condemning the refusers for having "abused their membership in Sayeret Matkal for political aims".

See also


Israeli special forces:
  • Kidon
    Kidon
    Kidon is the name of a department within Israel's Mossad that is allegedly responsible for assassination and kidnapping. Kidon is suspected of being behind a number of assassinations in the Operation Wrath of God campaign carried out by Israel after the 1972 Munich massacre...

  • Sayeret
    Sayeret
    Sayeret , literally means "reconnaissance unit" in the Israel Defense Forces . In practice, these units specialize in commando and other special forces roles, in addition to reconnaissance...

  • Shayetet 13
    Shayetet 13
    Shayetet 13 is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. The unit is considered one of the primary Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces . S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and...

  • Sayeret Shaldag
  • Sayeret Duvdevan
    Duvdevan Unit
    Duvdevan is an elite special forces unit within the Israel Defense Forces, directly subordinate to the West Bank Division and the Paratroopers Brigade. Duvdevan are particularly noted for conducting undercover operations against militants in urban areas...

  • Sayeret Yahalom
    Sayeret Yahalom
    Yahalom is a special elite combat engineering unit of the Israeli Engineering Corps of the Israel Defense Forces...

     (formerly Sayeret Yael)
  • Unit 669
    Unit 669
    669 is the Israel Defense Forces heliborne medevac extraction unit, subordinate to the Special Air Forces Command of the Israeli Air Force. It is considered one of the IDF's premier elite units.-History:...

  • YAMAM
    Yamam
    The Yamam ) is an elite Border police, not civilian Police counter-terrorism unit in Israel. The Yamam is capable of both hostage-rescue operations and offensive take-over raids against targets in civilian areas...



Israeli security forces
Israeli Security Forces
Security forces in Israel include a variety of organizations, including law enforcement, military, paramilitary, governmental, and intelligence agencies.-Military:...

:
  • Border Police
    Israel Border Police
    The Israel Border Police is the gendarmerie and border security branch of the Israel National Police. It is also commonly known by its Hebrew abbreviation Magav , meaning border guard, whilst its members are colloquially known as Magavnikim . Border Guard is often used as the official name of the...

  • Israeli police
  • Israeli Defence Forces
  • Shabak (Shin Bet)


Similar foreign special forces units:

Links