At three a.m. Thursday morning, two minivans containing an Israeli task force stopped in front of the Al-Ahli hospital in Hebron. Their target: Azzam Shalaldeh, a man who had tried to assassinate an Israeli elder last month. The men dismounted their vehicles, each group following their own objective. In the meantime, other SF elements were quietly securing the perimeter from a distance.
With beards, keffiyeh scarves on their heads, and one teammate disguised as a pregnant woman, the men entered the hospital. The soldier disguised as a woman was transported in a wheelchair by “her family.” The intel was solid and the crew knew exactly which floor and room they were after. The operation went smoothly until the crew began drawing too much attention from the hospital staff, which had little to do at three in the morning.
At some point, the crew drew their pistols and SMGs after realizing the hospital staff was getting suspicious. Some of those pistols were hidden within the wheelchair. The crew began making their way toward their target, clearing the corridor, closing in on the room containing their target. As soon as the crew reached the room, they stormed inside and cleared it. They apprehended and tied up the target’s brother beside the bed and moved the high-value target (HVT) to the wheelchair (while monitoring his medical condition). As the crew prepared to exfil, the target’s cousin, Abdullah Shalaldeh, showed up—catching the crew by surprise as he exited the nearest bathroom.
His reaction in that moment was to attack the operators. It resulted in his death, with no injuries to the Israeli team. Later on, when the family picked up Abdullah’s body, they claimed that he had been executed. The family also admitted he’d responded to the presence of the Israeli task force with violence.
Azzam Shalaldeh stabbed and wounded an Israeli elder in Gush Etzion a month ago. His murderous attempt adds to the intensity of the intifada raging in the Palestinian streets of the West Bank. The story does not end here: Azzam Shalaldeh comes from a family with a well-known connection to Hamas. His arrest comes as no surprise. The IDF and ISA are struggling to expose Hamas networks operating in the West Bank, waiting to rise up.
The task force has yet to be officially named. As always, the word “mistaravim”—the IDF’s undercover counterterrorism unit—has been thrown about. Or it could have been the Matilan—the intelligence-gathering and infiltrations interception unit, which has impressive covert capabilities I witnessed firsthand during close training with them. However, it is more likely that the team on this raid was a task force made up of Yamas and Shin Bet soldiers. IDF SF elements secured the outer perimeter of the target area, creating breathing room for the forces on the X.
The legality of the raid
The hospital staff claimed that they had no idea their patient was involved in a gunfight. They claimed that some people brought him in claiming he had been injured while working in their olive grove. Targets hiding among civilians or in hospitals is a well-known trick that dates back to the first intifada in the early ’90s. The Shin Bet issued the following statement: “We will not permit terror operatives to hide in any places of refuge.”
This operation reminded me of the motto of the elite Duvdevan, which has since made its way into other covert units and SF in general: “For by wise counsel, thou shalt make thy war.”(Proverbs 24:6).
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.