|General Staff Reconnaissance Unit 269,262 (Sayeret Matkal)|
|Motto||‘Who Dares Wins’|
|Key Statistics||Size: Unknown; however, Sayeret Matkal is classed as a ‘battalion’ which traditionally under the IDF contains 500 soldiers. |
Funding: No information
Diversity: The first female operator will be permitted to join Sayaret Matkal in Summer 2022 after four female Israeli soldiers petitioned the High Court of Justice to be allowed back in 2020. The decision came after two former Sayeret Matkal commanders supported the notion.
|Regimental Remit||Specialism: First and foremost an intelligence gathering unit, it focusses on deep reconnasicence alongside counter-terrorism and hostage rescue. Their focus is on conducting operations overseas and behind enemy lines without being noticed. Little is known about their organisation or structure, only that they answer directly to the Military Intelligence Directorate – the central overarching intelligence body of the IDF. |
Where are they based: Israel’s southern district.
Operating location(s): from their inception Sayeret Matkal’s remit was initially both domestic and international, after the Ma’alot massacre the Yamam counter-terrorism unit was created to deal with domestic issues and Sayeret Matkal were assigned to focus on international issues.
|Noteworthy Operations||1976 Operation thunderbolt: often called Operation Entebbe this saw Sayeret Matkal deploy to rescue 106 Israeli and Air France crew hostages from Entebbe airport in Uganda where a flight from Tel Aviv had been hijacked and diverted to land by the Palestinian PFLP-EO group. The operation was labelled a resounding success as Sayeret Matkal along with other IDF commandos stormed the airport and saved 102 hostages losing only one soldier in the process.|
1975 Savoy Hotel Attack: Sayaret Matkal stormed the hotel in Tel Aviv where Fatah had taken most of the hotel staff and guests as hostages. They killed all seven Palestinian hostage-takers but five hostages died during the raid.
|Any Scandals||Ma’alot massacre In May 1974 three armed members of the Palesinian DFLP group entered Israel from Lebanon, they initially killed five on their journey to Netiv Mir elementary school in Ma’alot where they took 115 hostage including 105 children. On the second day of a standoff where Israeli officials refused the demands of the group Sayeret Matkal stormed the school. The raid was poorly planned and one of the three groups entering the school accidentally blinded another with a phosphorus grenade. There was an apparent scene of confusion as Sayeret Matkal teams burst into the gymnasium where the hostages were held and simply opened fire on the DFLP members. One hostage taker responded by spraying the hostages with machine gun fire and hurling grenades into crowded areas. Ultimately the three hostage-takers were killed along with 25 hostages including 22 children and one operator, over 70 were injured. The IDF responded the next day by bombing DFLP and PFLP training bases and offices. The bombing inflicted damage to seven Palestinian refugee camps and villages in Southern Lebanon killing at least 27 and injuring 138. There was no formal review of the event and the only scrutiny came from Amos Horev (president of Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology university), who headed up an informal investigation and concluded that Israeli security services had made a host of mistakes.|
Operation Wrath of GodAlso known as ‘Operation Bayonet,’ this followed the 1972 Munich massacre and saw Sayeret Matkal under the orders of Mossad (Israel’s key intelligence agency) attempt to hunt down the perpetrators in the Black September group. Operations lasted from 1972-1988. A broad list of 20-35 targets formed a hit list that Sayeret Matkal attempted to fulfil, including the attacks that survived the Munich massacre. The idea of plausible deniability was central to the operation as targeted killings of nationals on foreign soil could not be linked to the Israeli government. Widespread criticism has come in recent years as documents have become declassified and a number of individual investigations were carried out. Some argue that of all the individuals Sayeret Matkal killed only one was actually connected to the Munich Massacre and many of the other individuals were simply low ranking PLO members. The operation did not so much remove key leading members of Palestinian terrorist cells but simply created an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, acting as a show of force. Mossad supposedly cared more about creating a spectacle than locating the real perpetrators. There was mixed criticism from within Israel with some questioning the strategic validity of the operation and others condemning the outright barbarity of the targeted killings. Some even speculate that this campaign took valuable capacity away from Mossad, which may in part have been why it missed the early warning signs of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, which took Israel completely by surprise. No formal review has been done on the effectiveness or necessity of the operation.
|Noteworthy Distinctions/ extra information||Sayeret Matkal was the second specific counter-terrorim unit created worldwide in the modern world, it is based off of the British SAS and shares the same motto.|
Although Sayeret Matkal has its own insignia, it is also one of only two units in the IDF, the other being Duvdevan, whose soldiers are not allowed to wear it in public due to its classified nature. This lack of insignia often leads to Sayeret Matkal operators being recognized as such, as the fact that Matkal troopers don’t wear insignia is well known.
Nickname: ‘The Unit’