Israeli Special Operations Article



Israeli commando missions come out of shadows
By Yaakov Katz, USA TODAY
TEL AVIV, Israel — The latest conflict in the Middle East has brought the traditionally secretive Israeli special forces into the open — an intentional effort, Israeli official say, to psych out the enemy.
Israeli infantry and armored divisions continued their battle Sunday to reach the Litani River, about 18 miles inside Lebanon. Commandos, meanwhile, have conducted high-profile raids on targets up to 100 miles from Israel's border.
Such operations deep inside Lebanon are a sign to the guerrillas, Israeli officials say. "They carry a clear message that we can reach anyone in Hezbollah wherever he might be," says Brig. Gen. Noam Feig, a senior Israeli naval officer.
Feig oversaw an operation in Tyre on Aug. 5 in which members of the navy's elite unit, Shayetet 13, killed 10 militants who the Israeli military says had been firing long-range rockets into Israel.
The military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, has publicly applauded another special forces operation Aug. 1 in Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley of northeastern Lebanon. There, commandos from Sayeret Matkal, the army's most elite unit, and from the air force's Shaldag Unit raided a hospital and captured five suspected Hezbollah guerrillas. Halutz says the operation showed Hezbollah the reach of the Israeli military.
The open acclaim for the special forces runs counter to their traditional role: covert missions rarely revealed to the public.
Reserve army Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, a former deputy chief of staff and head of the national security council, says special forces operate best when their role is never made public. They play a key role, he adds, but they don't win wars.
"Special operations are like dunks during a basketball game," says Dayan, a former commander of Sayeret Matkal and nephew of the legendary Israeli general and defense minister Moshe Dayan. "It is a nice move, but it doesn't win the game."
Established in 1957 and modeled after the British Special Air Service, Sayeret Matkal's primary declared mission is to gather field intelligence, often by venturing deep into enemy territory. Its operations, however, have gone far beyond intelligence gathering.
Sayeret Matkal is known for its role in Operation Thunderbolt in 1976, when it rescued 103 Air France passengers — most of them Israelis or Jews — who were being held hostage after their flight was hijacked to Entebbe, Uganda. In 1973, after Palestinian terrorists massacred Israeli Olympic athletes, Sayeret Matkal participated in Operation Spring of Youth, in which they attacked Palestine Liberation Organization buildings in Beirut.
Each military branch has its own special forces unit:
The army has Sayeret Matkal, or the General Command Reconnaissance Unit.
The navy has Shayetet 13, Hebrew for Flotilla 13.
The air force has the Shaldag Unit. In Lebanon, its commandos have used lasers to mark targets, such as rocket launchers, for fighter-bombers that then destroy the targets with laser-guided missiles.
The military also has the Duvdevan Unit, a special operations force that operates mostly in the Palestinian territories. Its members conduct arrest raids.
Members of these units undergo a rigorous selection process. Their training includes long marches, basic and advanced land navigation techniques and training in advanced weaponry.
Since the current conflict started July 12, the Israeli military has used air power and ground forces to pound suspected militant hideouts and rocket launchers. Special forces have been deployed for the more delicate mission of finding and killing or capturing Hezbollah guerrillas. In more than four weeks of fighting, Israeli commandos have captured about 20 Hezbollah operatives, Israel's military says.
Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, head of Israeli military intelligence, told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday that the military recently had captured one of the guerrillas who had participated in the July 12 border raid that ignited the conflict. That raid by Hezbollah guerrillas killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two.
While the special forces operations have been publicly branded successes, Dayan says the missions were never intended to be revealed. In Baalbek, fierce resistance from Hezbollah fighters resulted in a two-hour firefight near a hospital that made the mission impossible to conceal. In Tyre, navy commandos also engaged in gunbattles, and several were wounded.
The special forces play a small role in a war that Dayan says in the end will probably be decided by the 30,000 Israeli infantrymen moving through Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon.
The real effect of the special operations, he says, will be evaluated after the fighting. "Then we will be able to see what type of effect the raids deep inside Lebanon had on the Hezbollah."
Excellent Article

That was an Interesting Read Boon..When I was in South Lebanon with the UN there was rumour they were operating in the the UN AO's searching for the hezbullah..