The IDF has significantly increased the number of overseas covert operations it
has conducted over the past year, an indication of the growing threats Israel
faces in the region, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Most of the details
about the operations are classified, including the exact number, but according
to foreign reports, the IDF has operated in places such as Sudan, Lebanon and
The one confirmed covert operation in the past year was in March
2011, when commandos from the navy’s elite Flotilla 13 – or Shayetet 13 –
boarded the Victoria cargo ship sailing in the Mediterranean from Turkey en
route to Egypt.
The ship was carrying 50 tons of weaponry, including a
number of advanced radar-guided anti-ship missiles destined for Hamas in the
In December, foreign reports claimed the Israel Air Force
bombed two arms convoys on their way to the Gaza Strip in Sudan. One of the
reports claimed an Israeli helicopter was spotted over an island near Sudan and
that a submarine was also detected in the area.
Last April a car was
bombed near Port Sudan. Arab media reports accused Israel of the strike against
the car whose occupants were reportedly Islamist terrorists involved in arms-smuggling to Hamas.
The IDF has a number of units that specialize in
covert operations – the Air Force is in command of Shaldag, Military
Intelligence in command of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret
Matkal) and the navy in command of Shayetet 13.
While the number of
operations conducted by Israel’s special forces has increased over the past
year, there has been a feeling within the General Staff since the Second Lebanon
War that the units could do more if they worked closer together and if there was
better coordination between their respective branches.
In an effort to
improve their capabilities, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz decided in
December to establish the “Depth Corps” – a new unit that will oversee
operations deep in enemy territory.
The corps will be headed by Maj.-Gen.
Shai Avital, a former commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, who
has been out of the IDF for over a decade. Gantz selected Avital due to his
expertise in deep-covert operations.
The purpose of the corps will be to
enable each unit – Sayeret Matkal, Shaldag and Shayetet – to retain their unique
capabilities and at the same time create better coordination between themselves.