YAHALOM

Overview


Background

In 1995 the SF units within IDF Combat Engineering Corps had undergone a major reorganization. Previously organized as independent outfits, these units were merged into a single entity – YAHALOM (Hebrew acronym for "Special Operations Engineering Unit"). In the years since YAHALOM continuously evolve and expand, adding new specialized sub-units.

Today, YAHALOM is one of the largest SF units in Israel. It is divided into several companies, each benefiting from a structured organization, equipment, training and deployment. In addition to its operational companies, YAHALOM is comprised of a variety of logistical and technical companies which provide technical support and conduct R&D in Combat Engineering fields. In 2016, the unit celebrated it 20th anniversary.

SAP and Yael insignias used prior to the formation of YAHALOM and the introduction of its new unified insignia.

Objectives

  • Conduct Combat Engineering SF missions, either independently or with other SF units, which are too complex or specialized to be done by the Infantry Brigades’ Combat Engineering Companies (PALHAN) or by the Combat Engineering Corps regular battalions.

  • Train SF units in advanced demolition, breaching and EOD skills.

  • Develop new demolition and EOD techniques and gear

While most SF units operate in organic teams, YAHALOM operators are deployed on a more individual basis and are often assigned to other units to provide demolition/EOD expertise, not unlike Oket'z operators and their dogs. YAHALOM operators must therefore be able to rapidly adapt to new chains of command, work effectively with other SF units' organic teams and be able to confront officers from other SF units regarding professional matters. However, unlike Oket’z, YAHALOM, and in particular Yael, also carry out missions using organic teams.

 

Training & Personnel

YAHALOM recruits undergo an 18 months training regime comprised of the following:

  • Combat Engineering Corps basic training (4 months)

  • Phase A (4 months) - unit training including CQB, open field combat, basic demolition and EOD, with a special focus on reconnaissance and navigations.

  • Phase B (4 months) - further advanced training including demolition and specialized courses such as a NCO course, a Counter Terror Course and a Parachuting Course.

  • Phase C (6 months) - dedicated sub-unit training. While the previous training phases are shared for all YAHALOM recruits, in Phase C the soldiers are assigned to a YAHALOM sub-unit based needs, individual preferences and demonstrated aptitude. The operators then undergo specialized training which will qualify them as operators in their assigned sub-units.

All operators are required to sign an additional one year service, which is added to their three years mandatory IDF service.

 

Operational Companies

  • Yael ("Ibex" in Hebrew) - specializes in combat engineering reconnaissance and advanced demolition.

  • SAP ("Bomb Disposal" acronym in Hebrew) - specializes in EOD.

  • SAMOOR ("Tunnels and Caches" acronym in Hebrew) - specializes in underground warfare.

  • Midron Mushlag ("Snowy Slope" in Hebrew) - specializes in breaching and dynamic entry.

  • Sayfan ("Avocet" in Hebrew) - specializes in disposal of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.

 

Yael


Overview

Yael is the IDF SF long range demolition unit, formed in 1982 as an operational lesson from the Peace of the Galilee war. During the war the IDF recognized the need to establish specialized SF unit that could conduct long range complex SF demolition operations as well provide advanced demolition support to other SF units.

Objectives

  • Independent operations such as combat engineering obstacles reconnaissance, placing explosives in strategic locations in enemy territories and disable land mines fields. The ability to perform long range operations in organic teams, rather than assigning few operators to other SF units, is a Yael uniqueness among YAHALOM sub-units.

  • Joint missions with other SF units for operations that require expert demolition skills such as ambushes for vehicles and personnel and blowing up enemy facilities.

  • Assist SF and regular forces in crossing shallow maritime obstacles. Accordingly, Yael operators undergo basic diving and underwater demolition courses.

Deployment

Yael was involved in all Israeli-Arab conflicts since its formation. Prior to the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the unit performed missions such as placing explosive charges in terrorists' routes or blowing up guerrilla targets using powerful charges.

When the Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted in the Territories, the unit’s shifted its focus to urban deployment. Yael's deployment in the Territories comprises of missions which require advanced demolition capabilities such as:

  • Blowing up houses as a retaliation act after terrorists' attacks

  • Blowing up weapons or explosives factories

  • Blowing up key facilities - bridges, radio stations, headquarters, etc.

Training

As Yael was formed to support other IDF SF units in their missions as well as to conduct its own long range SF missions, its training is intense, both mentally and physically. The unit’s training consists of advanced demolition, navigation and reconnaissance skills necessary for long range operations. Another key training focus is maritime operations including small boats usage, basic diving and underwater demolition, which are required in order to handle maritime obstacles or to blow up targets with underwater foundations such as bridges.

SAP


Overview

SAP is the IDF SF unit in charge on complex EOD missions. The unit was formed in the late 1970's when the IDF realized it needed a specialized SF unit to conduct complex EOD missions.

Objectives

  • Neutralize IED and unexploded ordnance.

  • Assist other IDF SF units in missions which require advanced EOD capabilities. During CT operations SAP operators are often assigned to other SF units’ assault teams so they can neutralize explosives found in the perimeter such as booby-traps.

  • Disable CBRN devices. SAP has an advanced capability for disabling such devices, which was first used during Desert Storm in 1991, when SAP operators disarmed the Iraqi Scuds missiles that landed in Israel, and were suspected of carrying unconventional warheads

Deployment

Prior to the IDF withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, SAP was one of the busiest SF units in the IDF, responding to dozens of calls per month. When the Israeli-Palestinian clashes began late that year, the unit found itself practically unemployed, as most EOD missions fell under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Police sappers. However, due to the escalating clashes and the technical evolvement of Palestinian explosives charges, the unit soon became active again.

SAMOOR


SAMOOR is the IDF SF unit specializing in underground warfare. The unit is in charge on locating, securing and destroying enemy tunnels and hidden weapons and terrorists caches.

Tunnels are a major threat in the Territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip near the Israeli-Egyptian border, and are used for various terrorism and criminal purposes:

  • Smuggling weapons, explosives, drugs and prostitutes from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.

  • Covertly approach IDF posts in order to place charges near the post's foundations or to open fire on nearby IDF soldiers.

  • Hiding explosives under main roads.

Up until 2004, SAMOOR was a non-SF team in the IDF Gaza Strip Command simply known as the "Gaza Tunnel Team". However, after the tunnel threat increased and several incidents in which Tunnel Team members were killed, the IDF decided to form a specialized SF unit. The Gaza Tunnels Team was placed under the command of YAHALOM and was transformed into SAMOOR. The unit also received an additional responsibility of assisting other SF units in locating and destroying caches used to hide weapons and terrorists.

Operator from the IDF Gaza Tunnel Team, the precursor to modern-day SAMOOR, clearing a tunnel armed with a FN HP during deployment. Note the basic gear and the dated FN HP indicative of the Gaza Tunnel Team non-SF status at the time. 

SAMOOR merger into YAHALOM greatly contributed to the unit, allowing it to benefit from YAHALOM large budget, excellent gear, professional training and strong logistical support. Accordingly, the unit’s tactical capabilities and skills have since entirely transformed.

 

Midron Mushlag


Midron Mushlag was formed in the mid 1990’s following Sayeret MATKAL failed rescue attempt of Nachshon Vaxman in 1994. As one of the key reasons for the failure was a flawed breaching of the doors leading to the hostage, the IDF identified the need for a new SF unit to specialize in breaching.

Midron Mushlag specializes in leveraging hydraulics tools, weapons and explosives for breaching doors, windows and other entry points. As with all YAHALOM sub-units, operators from Midron Mushlag are attached to other SF units’ teams for missions requiring their expertise and also provide breaching training.

YAHALOM Guide