IDF's 'contractors' pay a visit to Jenin

Yamas commander tells Post his unit only gets missions that standard IDF units aren't trained for.

yamas 88 (photo credit: )
yamas 88
(photo credit: )
They are called the "contractors" of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division and are assigned some of the most complicated and dangerous missions in the West Bank. Called Yamas, the Border Police's Undercover Unit was behind the operation Wednesday morning in Jenin during which arch-terrorist and Islamic Jihad leader Ashraf Sa'adi was killed together with two additional terror operatives. Sa'adi had featured for years on Israel's most-wanted list and was responsible for dispatching a suicide bomber captured last week in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv. In an exclusive and rare interview with The Jerusalem Post, the unit's commander - Col. U. - spoke about the operation and the close to 1,500 previous arrest raids he has commanded since the outbreak of the second intifada. U. has served in the past as the deputy commander of the Israel Police's elite counter-terror unit Yamam and shortly after the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000 was appointed commander of the Yamas, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Several years later and after thwarting dozens of suicide attacks inside Israel, U. was awarded the rank of colonel by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a private ceremony at the PMO in Jerusalem as a sign of appreciation for his outstanding work. U. has overseen close to 1,500 operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. His unit, he explains, is only called in for the "tough and dangerous" missions, the ones for which he says that standard IDF units are not trained. Wednesday's operation in Jenin was one example. Early in the morning, the policemen, disguised as Palestinians and driving beat-up cars with Palestinian license plates, took up positions at a main intersection inside Jenin. The unit was working off intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) which listed exact details on the type of car Sa'adi would be driving and other important information. "It was a difficult mission since the junction was out in the open and put the policemen at risk," U., who participated in the operation, told the Post. Sa'adi spotted the policemen and began to flee the scene while opening fire at the force. The policemen returned fire and riddled the terrorist's Suzuki pickup truck with bullets, killing him and two other Islamic Jihad operatives. A policeman was lightly wounded after he was shot in the shoulder. "Sa'adi was a major terrorist who was behind numerous attacks and was in the midst of planning more," said U., explaining that the high-level of professionalism and discipline of his subordinates was behind the flawless operation. Unlike similar undercover IDF units like Duvdevan, almost half of Yamas members are career policemen who have participated in hundreds if not thousands of operations in the West Bank. The unit is credited with the arrest of close to 600 terror suspects in recent years and the deaths of 200 more. "The unit is unique since we are flexible," U. explained. "We are experts at picking up suspects in their beds at home, in coffee shops and in their cars. Not many units in the IDF have that kind of maneuverability."