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Combat Engineering Unit for Special Operations - Yahalom
|Active||1995 - present|
|Role||Combat Engineering Unit for Special Operations|
Yahalom (Hebrew language: יהל"ם - יחידה הנדסית למשימות מיוחדות) is a special combat engineering unit of the Israeli Engineering Corps of the Israel Defense Forces. The name "Yahalom" (Diamond in Hebrew) is an abbreviation of "Special Operations Engineering Unit".
Organization and activities
Yahalom specializes in special engineering missions that include:
- Commando and Counter-Terrorism missions.
- Accurate demolitions and planting of pinpoint explosives.
- Defusing and disposal of bombs, landmines and unexploded ordnance (Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)).
- Maritime sabotage and obstacles breaching.
- Searching and destroying smuggling tunnels.
- Developing advanced methods and tools for demolitions and EOD.
- Teaching and training engineering corps soldiers and other Special Units in demolitions and EOD.
Yahalom is a classified unit and almost none of its special activities are exposed to the public. Public accounts of its activities usually just credit a "combat engineering force"; a term that can equally describe regular Engineering sappers, IDF Caterpillar D9 operators and infantry engineering companies. Jane's Defence Weekly has claimed that Yahalom are working closely with Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet 13, by providing them with demolition, explosive and sabotage skills. Most of the equipment that Yahalom has developed for its missions is classified. Yahalom maintains secrecy to make it more difficult for enemies to develop countermeasures.
- Yael ("Ibex") - a commando demolition unit that conducts long range sabotage, combat engineering, counter terror, and maritime engineering missions. The YAEL team has destroyed Palestinian homes and civilian infrastructure that have been identified as hiding weapons caches, tunnels used to smuggle weapons, and firing positions.
- SAP ("EOD Unit") - an EOD unit that removes land mines and missile warheads, handles nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) threats, performs bomb disposal, and accompanies special operations units on missions where their units are at risk of encountering explosive booby traps. YACHSAP is constantly engaged in defusing large IEDs that Hezbollah has set along the Israel-Lebanon border and bombs Palestinians have planted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They often use armored bulldozers when executing those missions. SAP is initials for Bomb disposal.
- Samur ("Weasel") - a unit whose expertise is finding and destroying smuggling tunnels and hidden weapon caches. The unit dates back to 2004 when the IDF merged the Southern Command Philadelphi Route Smuggling tunnel experts team into Yahalom to form the Samur platoon.. Samur is also initials for Slikim (Caches) and Minharot (Caves or Tunnels)
- Midron Mushlag ("Snowy Slope") - a unit whose expertise is penetrating buildings using hot breaching techniques using explosives charges, or cold breaching techniques using hydraulic expanders, crow bars and lock picks.
- Hevzek ("Flash") - a unit that operated military robots - defunct.
- SAPIR ("Sapphire") - Aerial ordnance EOD Unit, stationed at major IAF bases and tasked with removal of air ordnance such as bombs, missiles, rockets, etc. It is also tasked with safe removal of unexploded enemy ordnance inside the base perimeter. SAPIR is initials for SAP (Bomb disposal) and Avir (air.)
- Sayfan ("Avocet") - CBRNE unit, trained to respond to threats from weapons of mass destruction, mostly focused on chemical weaponry.
- Givol ("Flower stem") - CBRN disposal unit, manned with reserve service personnel.
Arms and Equipment
- Firearms include the M4 Carbine, handguns, IMI Negev Commando SAW, sniper rifles and combat shotguns.
- Yahalom operates remote-controlled robots inserted into tunnels, obviating the need for human operators to risk their lives. EOD robots for handling improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bombs and explosive charges, and advanced EOD vehicles are standard equipment for all engineering units handling explosives. The Israel Border Police bomb disposal experts use similar equipment. Yahalom also uses the up-armored IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozer and the remote-controlled Raam HaShachar ("Morning thunder") version of the D9 (which were found extremely useful for special operation and CT duties), an armored Excavator with drills, the IDF Puma CEV, and Nakpuma, a Nakpadon APC modified to Yahalom's requirements.
Recruitment and training
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In order to be accepted into the unit one must enlist with the Israeli Engineering Corps and go through basic training ("Tironut"), where commanders identify the best trainees and select them for "Gibbush" (a grueling five-day test of physical and mental condition in intensive field trials). The best graduates of Gibbush are invited to join the unit and received advance training, which takes another year. Because the training takes a total of 1.4 years, the volunteers must agree to serve an extra year (in addition to the mandatory three year service in the IDF). The training includes training in engineering, explosive ordnance disposal, advanced combat and counter-terrorism.
- Diamonds in the Rough: Finding Weapons Nobody Else Can and a video, Israel Defense Forces Official Blog, 24 June 2014