Sayeret Matkal (Isreal)

Sayeret Matkal (Isreal)
July 31 20:59 2010 Print This Article

Sayeret Matkal IDF

Sayeret Matkal is the Israel Defence Forces elite special forces unit. The main role of the unit are counter-terrorism, deep reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, however the main objective of the unit is field intelligence-gathering, used to obtain strategic intelligence behind enemy lines. Sayeret Matkal is also the primary unit involved in hostage rescue missions outside Israeli borders. Sayeret Matkal forms itself on the model of the British SAS, and organisationally reports to the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

The unit is best known globally for Operation Thunderbolt in which it rescued more than 100 Air France airline passengers hijacked and flown to Uganda by PLO militants, and killed 52 enemy combatants while losing only the assault element commander, Yonatan Netanyahu, and three hostages.

Sayeret Matkal was founded in 1957 by Avraham Arnan who served as its first commander. Originally the unit was part of the Aman Unit 157, but began to operate independently a year later as the General Staff’s elite special operations force, modeled after the British SAS. Members of the unit were trained by Bedouin trackers on the finer points of looking and thinking like an Arab. Sayeret Matkal was also formed one year after the IDF’s first helicopter squadron became operational and close co-operation between the two allowed Sayeret Matkal to deploy for longer and deeper inside Arab territory than any unit before.

In 1959, a draftee named Ehud Barak was accepted into Sayeret Matkal. He later succeeded the Unit 101 commando Lt. Meir Har-Zion in becoming Israel’s most decorated soldier. Whilst with Sayeret Matkal, Ehud Barak participated in many operations, including leading the Operation Isotope in 1972 and leading the 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon. He later progressed in his military career to become the IDF Chief of Staff in 1991 and retired after the end of his tenure in 1995. In 1999 Ehud Barak became the 10th Prime Minister of Israel.

Although a top-secret unit, Sayeret Matkal had a tremendous influence on the IDF. They were the original developers of helicopter infiltration techniques in Israel. In addition, their heavy use of the Uzi submachine gun led them to convince Israel Military Industries to produce an Uzi as an updated version with a folding stock for increased accuracy while maintaining its small frame.

Sayeret Matkal has participated in many counter-terrorist operations, including the storming of a Boeing 707 held by Black September in 1972, and the killing of a force of bus hijackers in the Gaza Strip. They are probably best known for their actions in the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. There have been rumors linking them with several recent operations but these have never been confirmed by the IDF.

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