Operating in the shadows, Israel’s Sayeret Matkal elite unit is a symbol of strength, stealth, and strategy. They embody the relentless spirit of the country’s Defense Forces.
Drawing inspiration from their motto, “Who Dares Wins,” these warriors tread where others fear, securing their nation against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Sayeret Matkal, also known as General Staff Reconnaissance Unit 269, plays a pivotal role in Israel’s defense arsenal. Founded in the 1950s, the unit has been integral in executing numerous high-stakes missions that read like pages from a thrilling espionage novel.
Sayeret Matkal operatives emerge as the real-life embodiments of heroes. Armed with unwavering determination and unparalleled skills, they aim to protect the people of Israel from the shadows.
The stories of Israel’s Sayeret Matkal are narratives of a nation’s resilience and determination to safeguard its future.
Formation and Purpose
The unit was the brainchild of Avraham Arnan, a former yeshiva student and Palmach fighter. He envisaged a specialized force capable of conducting covert operations deep within hostile territories.
Arnan’s vision was to create a unit skilled in combat and adept in languages, navigation, and intelligence. He wanted to enable them to blend seamlessly into enemy terrain.
From its inception, Israel’s Sayeret Matkal held a multifaceted role. Beyond surveillance and intelligence gathering, the unit dealt with counter-terrorism and hostage rescue. It made them an invaluable asset in Israel’s security apparatus.
The unit’s responsibilities extended to locating and neutralizing imminent threats, thereby proactively safeguarding the nation’s borders and citizens.
The IDF Chief of Staff granted Sayeret Matkal a unique operational latitude. It allowed them swift and adaptive responses to evolving threats.
The unit’s structure and operational philosophy fostered innovation, agility, and a deep camaraderie among its members. It proved essential for the successful execution of high-stakes missions.
Rigorous Selection and Training
Joining the ranks of Israel’s Sayeret Matkal is synonymous with embracing challenge and endurance. The selection process, known as “Gibbush,” is a testament to rigor, meticulously structured to identify the elite from a pool of highly motivated candidates.
Gibbush evaluates the applicants’ physical stamina, mental grit, and strategic thinking. Likewise, it also tests their ability to operate efficiently under extreme stress and fatigue.
Over several days, candidates push themselves to their limits through grueling field exercises, navigation tasks, and problem-solving scenarios. The aim is to assess their teamwork, leadership, and endurance.
Only a select few, approximately 10% of the original candidates, successfully navigate through this initial phase. The subsequent training journey for those who make the cut is arduous, spanning about 20 months.
Different phases focus on developing a diverse skill set – from combat and survival to intelligence gathering and language proficiency. Trainees go through real-life scenarios. Here, they hone their abilities to make rapid decisions in high-pressure environments, a crucial aspect of special operations.
One of the distinctive features of their training is learning Krav Maga. It is a martial art developed by the Israeli military that focuses on practical self-defense.
Additionally, recruits specialize in various fields, such as sniping, explosives, and reconnaissance. It ensures that each member brings a unique skill to the unit.
Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has carved its reputation through high-profile missions, illustrating prowess, precision, and bravery. Amongst these, Operation Entebbe, or Operation Thunderbolt, in 1976 stands as a testament to their operational excellence.
Two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO) and two members of the German Revolutionary Cells hijacked an Air France plane carrying 248 passengers. The hijackers diverted the plane en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, to Entebbe, Uganda, and held the passengers in the airport’s old terminal.
The Sayeret Matkal, working alongside other IDF units, practiced on a life-sized replica of the terminal to ensure the precision of the mission.
The operation happened under darkness, with the team landing at Entebbe Airport in a blacked-out C-130 Hercules aircraft. The commandos, disguised in Ugandan uniforms and driving a convoy resembling Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s entourage, took the hijackers by surprise. They eliminated all the terrorists and secured the hostages in minutes.
The mission’s success marked the rescue of 102 hostages. It lasted 90 minutes, of which only 30 happened on Ugandan soil. It was a feat that highlighted the unit’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Strategy plays a crucial role in the success of any military operation. Sayeret Matkal is a master of strategic planning and execution.
The unit works closely with intelligence agencies to gather and analyze information, plan operations, and adapt quickly to changing circumstances on the ground. The ability to think several steps ahead and to make rapid, sound decisions in high-pressure situations is a trademark of Sayeret Matkal operatives.
Legacy and Impact
Israel’s Sayeret Matkal left an indelible mark on the world of special operations. The unit’s success stories are a testament to the effectiveness of its training, the dedication of its members, and the strategic brilliance of its operations.
Many of its tactics and techniques have become the gold standard in special operations, influencing military forces around the globe.