IDF Troops walking 298.
(photo credit: AP)
They are renowned for some of the most famous covert operations in military history, and on Wednesday night the soldiers of Sayeret Matkal - the IDF General Staff's Reconnaissance Unit - celebrated 50 years to the unit's establishment with a special ceremony at a base in the center of the country.
Hundreds of officers and soldiers who served in the unit over the past five decades were invited to the event, which was hosted by Channel 10 military reporter Inon Magal, himself a veteran of the elite unit. Former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu also attended.
Sayeret Matkal, the IDF's most elite and classified unit, is known for some of the most courageous missions in Israeli history. Modeled after the British SAS, the unit is subordinate to Military Intelligence and is assigned many intelligence-gathering operations.
The unit is best known for Operation Thunderbolt, when its members flew to Uganda to rescue more than 100 Air France airline passengers who had been taken hostage by PLO terrorists. The unit was also behind Operation Isotope, when a team of soldiers, led by Barak, stormed a Sabena aircraft that had been hijacked in Tel Aviv.
Sayeret Matkal was formed in 1957 by Avraham Aman and was designed to directly serve the General Staff on sensitive missions, mostly deep inside enemy territory. The unit's operations are approved directly by the prime minister and defense minister. During the Second Lebanon War, the unit operated deep inside the Beka Valley in an attempt to disrupt arms smuggling to Hizbullah from Syria. During the operation, one of the unit's officers, Lt.-Col. Emanuel Moreno, was killed.
During the celebration, the unit's commander for the past three years, Lt.-Col. O., stepped down from his post and handed the reins over to Lt.-Col. A.