Israel Special Forces' Response to Hamas in 2023 (2024)

Last week saw the most extensive mobilization of the Israel Special Forces in military assets since 1967’s Six-Day War.

This comes on the heels of Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack, abrutal assault that targeted thousands of Israeli civilians.

Israel Special Forces' Response to Hamas in 2023 (1)

Hamas’ attack on Israel overwhelmed the country’s Iron Dome defense system. (Image courtesy ofCNA)

To make matters even worse, it’s estimated that Hamas operatives kidnapped some 150 Israelis on their way back to the Gaza Strip. These Israelis are now being held hostage to be used for leverage in what must surely be highly hostile negotiations.

It’s like something out of a nightmare. But this type of scenario is precisely why Israel Special Forces exist in the first place.

Spurred on by previous tragedies, including the unspeakable massacre of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972, Israel has spent a fortune developing some of the most capable and effective special forces units anywhere in the world. If anyone can rescue Israel’s hostages, it’s these guys.

With this in mind,we will take a deeper look at Israel Special Forces and the Intelligence and Special Operations Unit, popularly known as Mossad, and reveal some of the cutting-edge gear that Special Forces operators trust their lives to…

Table of Contents

  • 01

    Reborn in Tragedy

  • 02

    Breaking Down Israel Special Forces Units

  • 03

    Top Three Tactical Gear Selections

  • 04

    A Devastating Tactical Response

  • 05

    Frequently Asked Questions about the Israel Special Forces

Reborn in Tragedy

1972’s Munich Olympic Games began as a symbolic and peaceful competition before devolving into one of the decade’s defining tragedies.

That year’s Summer Olympics was a significant milestone for Germany, marking the first time the country had hosted the Olympics since the 1936 Berlin Games. After the devastation of World War II, the event was meant to symbolize Germany’s return to the world stage.

Likewise, for Israel, the games provided an opportunity to symbolically move past the horrors of the Holocaust and to demonstrate its athletic prowess and enduring spirit after the nation’s founding in 1948.

Sadly, this was not to be, as thePalestinian terrorist organization known as Black September had other plans.

Formed in 1970,this group was an offshoot of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and it was responsible for a number of different terrorist acts that primarily targeted Israeli interests. Their stated aim was to draw attention and support to the Palestinian cause, effecting the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

On September 5, 1972, eight members of the Black September group scaled fences to infiltrate the Olympic Village. Once inside, they made their way to the apartments where the Israeli team members were staying. In the process, they woke up Yossef Gutfreund, a wrestling referee, who tried to resist the intruders but was ultimately overpowered by them.

Israel Special Forces' Response to Hamas in 2023 (2)

An infamous image from the 1972 Olympics’ terrorist crisis. (Image courtesy ofBritannica)

After taking the Israeli Olympic team hostage, the members of Black September immediately demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. They also demanded the release of the founders of the Red Army Faction, a German radical left-wing group.

German authorities fielded their demands and began negotiations. But they were sorely underprepared for a crisis of this magnitude. And because they were initially optimistic about their ability to negotiate with the terrorists,they refused to allow Israel Special Forces to get involved. Ultimately, this turned out to be a terrible mistake.

The Germans made a long list of careless mistakes in the negotiations. First and foremost, they relied on untrained, inexperienced hostage negotiators.Additionally,they failed to keep a single consistent line of communication open with the terrorists.

And when they finally tried to carry out a rescue operation on September 6, it ended with the death of all eleven hostages and one German police officer. As the world watched in horror, the tragic gunfight was broadcast on television.

The Munich Olympics Hostage Disaster sent shockwaves around the world, as theloss of innocent lives during a peaceful sporting event was an unprecedented act of terrorism. In this way, the Olympic Gamessupposed to symbolize international cooperation and peacewere transformed into a grim stage for violence and terror.

The Israeli government’s response was swift, initiating Operation Wrath of God to track down and bring justice to those responsible for the massacre. This operation was famously depicted in Spielberg’s Munich, a tense action thriller that you should probably rewatch.

This tragedy served to perpetuate the alienation between Israelis and Palestinians that had already gone on for centuries. But it also galvanized support for counterterrorism efforts across the world. Governments began to accept a whole new reality of potential terrorist threats, and they ramped up their intelligence-sharing and monitoring efforts as a result.

And few have gone further with these efforts than Israel itself. The country continued its post-Munich operations for decades. They eventually resulted in the assassination of Atef Bseiso, the PLO’s head of intelligence, for his links to the attack in 1992—two full decades later.

So, in addition to its massive anti-terrorist resources, Israel Special Forces have also demonstrated a persistence unlike any other.

Breaking Down Israel Special Forces Units

Mossad is arguably the most famous Israel Special Forces unit, thanksin part to significant operations like Wrath of God. But they’re not alone.

Israeli Special Forces, commonly called “Sayeret” in Hebrew, are elite military units within the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). These forces are tasked with conducting unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, intelligence gathering, and special operations.

The selection and training process for Israeli Special Forces units is exceptionally rigorous. As such, soldiers aspiring to join these elite units must undergo a demanding screening and assessment process. Only the best candidates are selected, and the training is arduous, testing physical and mental capabilities.

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Israel’s Elite Special Forces. (Image courtesy ofTimes of Israel)

The training includes marksmanship, hand-to-hand combat, survival skills, navigation, and various specialized skills relevant to the specific unit’s role. Training prepares soldiers for the challenges they will face during missions, including operating behind enemy lines and responding to terrorist threats.

Once an Israeli joins the Israel Special Forces, they’ll be assigned to one of a few different groups.

  • Sayeret Matkal, often called “The Unit,” is the IDF’s most prestigious and secretive special operations unit. Their primary roles are intelligence gathering, deep reconnaissance, and conducting special missions behind enemy lines. Sayeret Matkal, notably, played a vital role in the 1976 Operation Entebbe, a daring rescue mission in Uganda, and other high-profile operations.
  • Shayetet 13 is the naval special forces unit of the IDF. They are highly trained in sea, air, and land operations and specialize in underwater combat and maritime counterterrorism. Shayetet 13 has been involved in numerous operations to protect Israel’s coastline and offshore assets.Their missions include combating piracy, intercepting arms shipments, and responding to maritime terror threats.
  • Duvdevan, known as the “Cherry” unit, focuses on undercover counterterrorism and intelligence gathering. They are known for their ability to blend in with the local population, often disguising themselves as Arabs to carry out covert operations in urban environments.
  • Maglan specializes in deep reconnaissance, covert intelligence gathering, and guerrilla warfare. They are often deployed behind enemy lines to gather information, eliminate high-value targets, and disrupt enemy activities.
  • Sayeret Golani is an elite unit that operates under the Golani Brigade. They focus on counterterrorism, covert reconnaissance, and special operations, particularly in the northern regions of Israel.
  • Sayeret Givati is another elite unit operating under the Givati Brigade. Theyexcel in urban warfare, intelligence gathering, and counterterrorism operations.
  • The Yamam is a civilian counterterrorism unit under the Israeli police force, but they often work closely with military special forces. They are responsible for responding to terrorist incidents within Israel, such as hostage situations and sieges.

At various points in history, these different Israel Special Forces units have cooperated and worked together. One of the most famous missions by Sayeret Matkal, Operation Entebbe involved the rescue of Israeli hostages held by terrorists at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Israeli commandos flew to Entebbe, defeated the terrorists, and successfully rescued the hostages.

Sayeret Matkal was also involved in successfully rescuing hostages on Sabena Flight 571, a Belgian passenger plane hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. The operation, known as Operation Isotope, was a daring nighttime raid at Tel Aviv Airport.

The Israel Special Forces, it's worth noting, have played a crucial role in various conflicts in Lebanon, including the 2006 Lebanon War.

All in all, the Israeli Special Forces are vital to the Israel Defense Forces, contributing to the nation’s security and counterterrorism efforts. From daring hostage rescues to covert intelligence gathering, these elite units have a rich history of success.

While their actions have garnered international attention and sometimes controversy, their commitment to maintaining Israel’s security remains unwavering. Israeli Special Forces continue to evolve, adapting to new threats and challenges, and their role in Israel’s defense remains critical in an ever-changing geopolitical landscape.

Top Three Tactical Gear Selections

The Israeli Special Forces are equipped with state-of-the-art weapons, gear, and technology.

As such, they have access to advanced firearms, body armor, night-vision equipment, and communication systems. Furthermore, Israel’s cutting-edge defense industry has developed specialized equipment tailored to the needs of these elite units.

Chief among these is a need for tactical CBRN protection that special forces operators can use to guard against deadly chemical weapons, gasses, and other terrorist threats.

For Czech Special Forces, this need resulted in the creation of the Tactical Air-Purifying Respirator, or TAPR for short.

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The TAPR is highly similar to the respirators used by Israeli special forces, featuring a lightweight half-mask construction compatible with a wide variety of combat helmet systems—including optional FIDLOCK buckles for rapid deployment with ARC rail systems.

The TAPR comes with specialized compact filters that provide low-profile protection, but it’s also compatible with smaller 40mm NATO standard filter cartridges for longer-lasting protection. Weighing just over 4 ounces, the mask is engineered to give the user a solid cheek weld with their rifle if needed.

The TAPR is also a practical choice for respiratory protection. It comes in a hardshell case with two compact particle filters, a head harness and a waist pouch—making it a great first respirator for just about anyone. The particle filters control everyday exposure and even biological (bacterial/viral) threats.

Of course, the TAPR does NOT provide the same level of protection as a full-face mask. Your eyes and upper face will still be exposed to potential threats. And due to its smaller size, the TAPR isn’t ideal for heavier 40mm filters. These filters can add excess weight to one side of the mask, potentially breaking the seal.

We recommend upgrading your TAPR with a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) unit. The PAPR is a fully enclosed, battery-powered blower unit that automatically draws air through its attached filters and sends that purified air to your respirator through an attached hose.

The dense filter media inside a typical gas mask filter, it should be noted, can restrict airflow and make breathing more difficult. Combined with the exertion of moving around, difficulty breathing can lead to fatigue. It can sap your energy and even prevent you from thinking straight in the line of fire.

A PAPR negates all those downsides of respiratory protection.

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Since the PAPR is breathing for you, it’s far easier to keep moving and stay in the fight than it would be otherwise. That’s a serious tactical advantage—once again, why operators like those in the Israeli Special Forces often rely on PAPRs.

Using a PAPR also allows you to remove them from your mask. Instead, you plug two filters directly into the PAPR unit and then plug the attached hose into your mask. So you’ve also got less weight and less bulk on your face while you move around.

It’s an easy upgrade to overlook, but nothing changes the game like powering up your respirator. Remember that we also have PAPR Molle attachment units and spare battery packs to help you gear up.

Finally, what tactical kit would be complete without body armor?

We only recommend the MIRA Tactical Level 4 Body Armor plates for top-tier body armor.

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Tipping the scales at 5.9 pounds, these Level 4 plates weigh less than some Level 3 alternatives. They’ve been tested and proven to take multiple hits from almost any type of small arm, including AR-15s or AK-47s and heavy sniper/battle rifles without puncturing or spalling.

Thanks to their composite construction combining aluminum oxide ceramic with ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, these plates provide a level of protection that’s practically unmatched in the civilian world.

Plus, they fit just fine in standard plate carriers and backpacks, giving you a drop-in upgrade for next-generation ballistic protection. 6” square side plates are also available.

A Devastating Tactical Response

In the words of famous basketball coach John Wooden: “It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.”

Through the long history of the Israel Special Forces, they’ve demonstrated anrelentless dedication to finishing the job—even if it takes decades.

Israel Special Forces' Response to Hamas in 2023 (7)

(Image courtesy ofCNBC)

At time of writing, airstrikes are raging and Israel is staging a full military invasion into the northern half of the Gaza Strip. Special Forces units will undoubtedly play a key role in any incursion, targeting specific Hamas objectives and potentially (hopefully) freeing some of the hostages.

Meanwhile, we can assume an almost fanatical resistance on behalf of their Arab opponents—who will once again likely go down in a hail of bullets and bombs. It’s important to maintain realistic expectations about the situation. Still, hostage recovery on behalf of the Israel Special Forces could be the quickest and surest road to a potential ceasefire before more innocent blood is spilled on either side.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Israel Special Forces

What is Mossad?

What are the Israel Special Forces?

What is the significance of Ramallah?

Why are there Israeli airstrikes in Gaza right now?

What are the primary roles and missions of Israel Special Forces?

What is the significance of Israel Special Forces in Israel's national defense strategy?

Israel Special Forces' Response to Hamas in 2023 (2024)
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