Elite naval commandos are in Gaza fight, IDF confirms

Defense sources deny unit sent to rescue Gilad Schalit

The elite naval commandos are taking part in the battle against Hamas in Gaza, the IDF said on Wednesday. According to details permitted for publication, the unit - also known as Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) - is conducting a wide range of operations, including strikes on Hamas terrorists and infrastructure. The commandos involved include sailors in regular service and teams of reservists, operating both at sea and inside Gaza. Some of the operations are conducted in conjunction with ground force units as well as the air force. The navy has been operating off Gaza since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead and has hit dozens of Hamas targets along the coast. Navy ships are also maintaining a blockade on the Strip. News of the naval commandos' presence in Gaza set off a wave of rumors that the force had entered the Strip to rescue St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit. The defense establishment checked the reports and said they were not true. On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv calling for any cease-fire reached with Hamas to include the return of Schalit. Shayetet 13 is one of the IDF's most storied units and has participated in hundreds of secret operations. During the Second Lebanon War, Shayetet 13 raided a building in the Lebanese city of Tyre in search of terrorists behind the firing of long-range missiles at Hadera. The operation was conducted based on precise intelligence. Two commandos, including an officer, were seriously wounded and six sailors sustained light wounds during clashes with Hizbullah gunmen.