Elite unit guards Israel against Sinai threats

The combat reconnaissance unit that operates in the shadows.

IDF soldier surveys sinai desert 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldier surveys sinai desert 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An exclusive combat reconnaissance unit that operates in the shadows and guards southern Israel against an array of terrorist threats from the Sinai Peninsula has met with many operational successes, its founder, Maj. Benny Meir told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
Sayeret Rimon, which operates under the auspices of the Givati Brigade, was first established by Ariel Sharon as southern commander in the 1970s. It spent years combatting terrorism in the Gaza Strip, until it was disbanded in 2005.
In 2010, former southern commander Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yoav Galant ordered Meir, of the Givati Brigade, to revive the unit, with the intent of securing the south from the growing jihadi salafi terrorist presence in Sinai, and combating the criminal and terrorist smuggling networks in the area.
“The decision by senior brass was to set up a desert combat unit that specialized in operations in this landscape, a unit that would know how to tackle terrorism and criminal smuggling,” Meir said.
In 2012, the unit was enlarged to the size of a battalion, as its scope of operations and successes grew.
“Not every unit can deal with the difficulties and professional challenges faced by Sayeret Rimon. The soldiers utilize flexibility, speed and creative thinking. They are trained to be part of the land. It’s a different approach,” Meir added.
“I set the unit up from scratch. The effort proved to be well worth it. In recent years, the unit’s operational successes have been inspirational,” Meir said, without going into detail.
The fact that three of its officers received the excellence award from the IDF chief of staff in a single year is also a source of pride for Meir.
Asked if he was concerned by the growing unrest in Sinai, Meir said, “Sayeret Rimon is a superb unit, whose soldiers can deal with any challenge. It’s part of a very strong division [the 80th Territorial Division, responsible for the Egyptian border]. In my opinion, whatever challenge arises, from south to north, the military will know how to deal with it.”
Last week, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon noted that radical Islamic elements are attacking Egyptian security forces in Sinai. He confirmed that Egypt turned to Israel with requests in recent weeks to insert additional armed forces for counter-terrorism missions.
“As long as they invest these forces into combating terror, in accordance with requests from us, and don’t violate the peace treaty, we certainly allow them to combat the challenges that the Islamists are posing in Sinai,” he said.