|State of Israel|
Sayeret (Hebrew: סיירת, pl.: sayarot), literally means "reconnaissance unit" in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). They specialize in intelligence gathering and surveillance. In practice, these units specialize in commando and other special forces roles, in addition to reconnaissance (the degree of specialization varies by units and current needs). Such units are usually a company or a battalion in strength.
Sayeret units in the IDF
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All combat brigades in the IDF have a unit with improved weaponry and training used for reconnaissance and special forces missions, trained to use advanced weapons and reconnaissance technology, as well as hand-to-hand combat. Historically the brigades used to only have one company-sized unit outfitted to do this job, known as Palsar (Hebrew Contraction of: פלוגת-סיור, Plugat Siyur (singular) / Plugot Siyur (plural), "Reconnaissance Company"). Although the Palsar are mostly oriented at battlefield support (which is their raison d'être), many have participated in special operations during recent years. All infantry units as well as some armored units have Palsar.
While in the past there were differences between the siyur units, due to the experiences of the past decades the IDF is now consolidating them into larger units with many different capabilities: battalion-sized units called Gadsar (contraction of Gdud siyur, "Reconnaissance battalion"). Each Gadsar is made up of three specialized Plugot (companies): Demolitions and combat engineering (Plugat Heil Handasa, or Palhan), Reconnaissance (Plugat Siyur, Palsar) and Anti-Tank / Heavy Weapons (Pluga Neged Tankim, or Palnat).
This is part of the Yatah ("Low-Intensity Combat Unit") Project. This project aims at changing the Reconnaissance battalions into specialized urban counter terror units, that are specifically trained and equipped to operate in current combat situations.
Other sayarot are larger units, operating under corps and commands. There are several battalion-size special forces units which report directly to regional, functional (navy/air-force) and the general commands. The best known of these are Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13 and Yehidat Shaldag.
Known Sayeret units
Principal 3 special forces units
These three specific units are considered the most elite & prestigious of all special forces units in the IDF. The training and selection for these 3 units is the longest, most selective, most grueling, and more extensive than any other IDF units. Their operators are proficient in long range solo navigation, as opposed to other units where long range navigation is done with a minimum of 2 fighters.
- Sayeret Matkal - The IDF's principal special operations/commando unit, used mainly to obtain strategic intelligence behind enemy lines and to perform hostage-rescue missions on foreign soil. It is directly subordinate to the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate (AMAN). Modeled after Britain's Special Air Service, it is known by Israelis as the most elite unit (above all) in the IDF.
- Shayetet 13 - The naval commando unit, equivalent to the US Navy SEALs or British Special Boat Service. Also tasked with maritime hostage-rescue missions. Part of the Israeli Navy. Founded in 1948 by former members of the Palyam, the naval branch of the Haganah.
- Sayeret Shaldag - Founded in 1974 by several former Sayeret Matkal veterans, it is the Israeli Air Force's commando unit, specializing in forward air control, aerial & special reconnaissance, and target designation outside of Israel's borders.
- Duvdevan Unit - Special undercover unit, surbordinate to the Judea and Samaria Division and Paratroopers Brigade. As a mistaravim unit; operators in the unit are trained conducting undercover operations disguised as Arabs in urban areas. They traditionally they do not allow their real identities to become known to people outside their unit, and go to great lengths to avoid being recorded electronically or otherwise.
- Oketz Unit - the IDF's special K-9 unit.
- Egoz Reconnaissance Unit - counter-guerrilla unit, originally for operating in southern Lebanon; part of Golani Brigade.
- Unit Alpinistim - IDF mountain-warfare unit operating in the Golan Heights; provides protection for IDF electronic listening posts on Mount Hermon and Har Avital. This unit also provides alpine rescue services.
Also, four of the five infantry brigades (Golani, Givati, Nahal and Paratroopers) operate their own Palsars, the infantry "sayarot". Each unit is subordinate to a specific regional command, though they are not restricted to these.
- Palsar Nahal (Central Command).
- Palsar Tzanhanim (paratroopers) (Central Command).
- Palsar Golani (Northern Command).
- Palsar Givati (Southern Command).
- Palsar 7 - the 7th Armored Brigade reconnaissance unit.
- Palsar 401 - the 401st Brigade reconnaissance unit.
Combat Engineering Corps
- Sayeret Yahalom - the engineering special forces unit, its missions range from EOD and bomb disposal to counter-mining warfare.
- Unit 669 - combat search and rescue unit, also in charge of civilian rescue services in peacetime.
- Unit Yanmam - airborne-capable anti-aircraft unit.
- Unit Yaltam - Salvage and Recovery unit.
- Unit Yaban - Force Protection unit (allows female fighters).
- Maglan - a commando unit which specializes in operating behind enemy lines, only became publicly known in 2006.
- LOTAR Eilat - reserve force counter-terrorism/hostage-rescue unit based at the southern Israeli port city of Eilat.
- Meitar/Moran - a unit operating long range precision-guided missiles.
- Unit 101 - the first Israeli special forces unit, commanded by Ariel Sharon.
- Samson Unit - former Gaza Strip counter-terrorist unit.
- Sayeret Haruv - former IDF Central Command special forces unit.
- Sayeret Shaked - former IDF Southern Command special forces unit.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2012)|
Young Israelis wanting to serve in the sayarot usually go to Yom Sayarot (Reconnaissance Units Day). Held at the Wingate Institute, Yom Sayarot is a day where prospective recruits undergo a series of physical and mental tests to evaluate their aptitude for service in several units. Those wanting to join Sayeret Matkal, Shaldag, Unit 669, Shayetet 13, the submarine service or Hovlim (Naval Officers Course) must go to Yom Sayarot and perform the respective tests for each service option.
Other sayarot recruit their operatives from the best recruits of the respective parent units. For instance, those who excel during training in the Tzanhanim Brigade are invited to try to join Duvdevan or Palsar Tzanhanim; the best of recruits of the Armored Corps are invited to apply for service in the Armored reconnaissance units, etc.
Drop-outs from some sayarot might be able join other, less demanding sayarot units. For instance, drop-outs from Shayetet 13 migh be able to go to Unit Yaltam or Yaban; drop-outs from Shaldag can end up in Unit Yanmam.
The reserve sayarot such as Alpinistim or LOTAR Eilat usually recruit its members after they finished the mandatory 3-year service in some units: Alpinistim draws its members primarily from Golani and LOTAR Eilat draws its members from former kravi (soldiers that served in a combat unit) that live in Eilat.
- Yamam – the elite SWAT unit in Israel
- Yamas - the Israeli police special operations unit.
- Shin Bet – Israel's internal security agency
- Aman – Israel's military intelligence agency
- Mossad – Israel's covert intelligence and special operations agency
- Morris, Benny (1993) Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956. Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War. Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-827850-0. Page