When people think about the IDF special operation units, usually two names come to mind:
Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet 13
The Chief reconnaissance unit, is primarily known for the daring rescue in Entebbe in 1976 and the assassination of a leading Palentinean terrorist in Tunis. Similar to the US Army 1st SFOD-D (Delta), their specialty is deep reconnaissance and counter terrorism outside the borders of Israel.
These are the highly specialized naval commando unit, similar to the US Navy SEALs. Shayetet 13’s missions include sea-borne counter-terrorism, sabotage, recon and hostage rescue. Their missions remain for the most part classified but they took part on every major conflict Israel was part of, and some very successful operations deep inside Hizballah controlled Lebanon during the 1st and 2nd Lebanon wars.
While these two units are the most famous, there are a number of other units in the IDF that are equally good and perform a variety of highly specialized tasks.
Sareyet Maglan is a highly classified long range reconnaissance unit that is trained in missiles warfare, or rather the search and destroy of enemy rockets, rocket launchers and other ordnance. They might, on occasion, act as laser target designators for the Air Force. There is a rumor circulating in Israel, that Sayeret Maglan was among the very few IDF units that covertly participated in the search for Iraqi Scuds during Desert Storm in 1991.
> > The unit, founded in 1986, became known only in 2006, during the 2nd Lebanon war, where successfully hunted and destroyed Hizballah’s rokets and bunkers.
Shaldag (Special Air-Ground Designating Team) is one of the Israeli Air Force special operations unit. Similar to the US Air Force Combat Controllers, Shaldag is tasked with targeting enemy structures, vehicles and other resources for assault by Israeli jets or helicopters, preparing the ground for possible airfields, special reconnaissance and sabotage. One of the rumored missions this unit took part of was the 2007 IDF strike of the the Syrian nuclear reactor. This included an infil deep into hostile Syria and covert communications.
Shaldag was founded in 1974 by a Sayeret Matkal veteran. The unit operated as a Sayeret Matkal reserve company and it was eventually transferred to the IAF.
Also known as the “mistarabim”, Duvdevan conducts undercover kill or capture operations against terrorists in the west bank. Duvdevan operators look like arabs, speak the local dialect fluently, drive modified civilian vehicles and generally are extremely hard to spot as being soldiers. They spend years training to blend in, close quarters combat, counter-terrorism tactics and highly specialized hand to hand combat.
In part two we’ll see other special operation units, such as Egos (the guerilla and anti-guerrilla warfare unit), 669 (the Israeli Air Force PJs), and others.