IDF uses elite Shayetet 13 in Jenin arrest raids

Troops from naval unit rarely carry out raids • Sources call the move "unique"

Shayetet 13 naval commandos‏ (photo credit: IDF)
Shayetet 13 naval commandos‏
(photo credit: IDF)

Troops from the elite Shayetet 13 naval unit took part in arrest raids in the West Bank city of Jenin on Sunday morning, a rare move for the unit known as “the people of silence.”

The forces arrested Palestinian suspects in northern West Bank towns, including in Jenin and its refugee camp, where the terrorist Ra’ad Fathi Hazem, who killed three people on Thursday night in Tel Aviv, came from, and in Yabad, the hometown of Diaa Hamarsheh, who killed five people in a terrorist attack in Bnei Brak on March 29.

During the raids in which eight suspects were arrested, troops came under fire from armed Palestinians who engaged troops with improvised explosive devices and gunfire. No troops from the elite unit were injured.

Israeli security forces carry out near-nightly raids in the West Bank in an effort to arrest wanted Palestinians as well as to uncover unofficial workshops producing illegal weapons and confiscate funds that could be used for terrorism.

However, Israeli forces rarely operate in Jenin, as it is one of the more violent cities in the West Bank with heavily armed militants from Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups.

A joint drill between the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 navy commandos and US Army Special Forces (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)A joint drill between the IDF’s elite Shayetet 13 navy commandos and US Army Special Forces (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The raids in which troops from Shayetet 13 took part came as Israeli security forces increased their offensive operations in Palestinian towns and cities following a series of deadly terrorist attacks that have killed 14 people in less than three weeks.

Sources told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to use troops from the unit to carry out the arrest of suspected Palestinian militants was a “unique” event that “rarely happens.”

Shayetet 13 is the Israel Navy’s elite commando unit that specializes in sea-to-land attacks, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue and boarding.

It is considered one of the primary special forces units along with the Ground Force’s Sayeret Matkal and the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag units, and is one of the most secretive units in the military.

In June of last year, the unit received a citation from IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi for a series of operations carried out over the year that showed “strength, creativity and innovation” during operation Guardian of the Walls in Gaza, and which contributed to the IDF’s war-between-wars campaign against Iran.

The unit last played a central role in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, exactly 20 years ago.

Troops, with Kohavi among them, went house to house searching for terrorist operatives in what has become known as the fiercely fought “Battle of Jenin.”

The Battle of Jenin saw 13 IDF troops from the Fifth Brigade Infantry Company of the 7020th Reserve Battalion killed after they were ambushed in a courtyard by Palestinians who opened heavy fire on them from upper-story windows of buildings and cut them off from other troops.

Palestinians were able to abduct the bodies of three of the killed IDF troops.

It was only when forces from Shayetet 13 quickly assembled a rescue force that engaged with the Palestinian terrorists that they were able to locate the bodies and evacuate all casualties from the scene.It was the deadliest day for the IDF since the end of the 1982 Lebanon War and remains a vivid memory in the minds of all General Staff officers, as well as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The use of troops from Shayetet 13 came shortly after troops from the elite IDF units of Sayeret Matkal, Lotar and the IAF’s Shaldag units took part in the manhunt for the terrorist who opened fire on Tel Aviv’s busy Dizengoff Street, killing three.

The IDF has beefed up troops with more than 14 combat battalions. An additional 1,000 soldiers in special forces training have been sent to help the Israel Police within Israel’s borders and major cities.