Sayeret Mat’kal -Israel

פורסם ע"י: אירנה ולדימרסקי

Vladimirsky, I. (2012). Sayeret Mat’kal (Israel). In F. C. Shanty (Ed.), Counterterrorism: From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger

Sayeret Mat’kal (Israel)

Irena Vladimirsky

Sayeret Mat’kal is a special unit within the Israeli Defense Forces. Its establishment was inspired by the successful experience of the British Special Air Service, the special forces regiment of the British Army during World War II, and the necessity of developing the capability to operate behind enemy lines. The motto of the newly formed unit, “Who Dares Wins,” has remained unchanged. The group, originally called Unit 269, was established on August 15, 1958, and was subordinate to the Intelligence Service of the Israeli Defense Forces Headquarters (also known as Aman). Unit 269’s primary task was to gain intelligence from the territory of enemy Arab countries. The idea to establish the unit stemmed from Major Avraham Arnan, who became its first commanding officer. Arnan was supported by Colonel David Elazar, who served as deputy commander over the Israeli Armored Corps (Heil HaShirion). The unit initially consisted of soldiers of the former Arab Unit of the Palmach (Strike Force), veterans of the Intelligence Corps (Heil HaModi’in), soldiers of the paratrooper Unit 101, and young Kibbutz volunteers.

During its initial years of operation, Unit 269’s activity concentrated mostly on gaining intelligence from neighboring Arab countries. Soldiers of the unit went over three possible scenarios of staying on the enemy’s territory to collect different kind of intelligence: deep, medium, and light. Deep staying demanded intelligence activity for a period of months and even years, medium staying lasted several weeks, and light staying was limited to several hours. Five years after the establishment of the unit, it was decided to expand its activity to include special military operations behind enemy lines as an immediate response to terrorist activity.




Soldiers from Sayeret Mat’kal participated in four wars: the Six-Day War (1967), the Day of Atonement War (1973), and the Lebanese Wars (1982 and 2006). Only some of the unit’s antiterrorist operations are known, such as the Sabena airplane hijacking (1972); Operation Aviv (1973); the Maalot school operation (1974); Operation Entebbe (1976); the Savoy Hotel (1976); the Bus 300 Operation (1984); the killing of Abu Jihad, one of the leaders of the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in Tunisia (1988); the successful kidnapping of the Party of God (Hezbollah) leaders Sheik Abdel Karim Obeid (1989) and Mustapha Dirani (1994) from Lebanon; and the unsuccessful attempt to rescue Nachshon Mordechai Wachsman, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by activists of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Jerusalem (1994).

As of 1992 practically nothing was known on Sayeret Mat’kal’s existence and activity. As a result of the Tze’elim Disaster Bet (1992), in which five soldiers of Sayeret Mat’kal were killed and five others were wounded, a special commission was established to investigate the circumstances of the event. Following this inquiry information on Sayeret Mat’kal and its activity became accessible to the public.

Sayeret Mat’kal candidates are required to possess outstanding physical and personality qualities, creativity, and devotion to defined goals. Regular Sayeret Mat’kal service consists of 20 months of training, including basic training for infantry and paratroopers’ brigade and special unit training with special attention to orienteering, counterterrorism activity, intelligence and patrol, followed by 4.5 months of unit training and 12 months of permanent service (48 months of military service). At the end of the usual permanent service, every Sayeret soldier signs on for an additional year of permanent service with the unit. Sayeret Mat’kal soldiers wear uniforms without the recognizable clip of the unit; instead, they wear the insignia of the paratroopers, red berets and red boots.

see also:Volume 1, Part II:Israel.Volume 2, Part I:YAMAS (Israel).Part II:Sabena Flight 572 (1972);Operation Entebbe (1976)


Raicher-Atir, Yiftah. “Sayeret Mat’kal kefi she yazar ota meyasda Avraham Ernan, hi kat sgura, shoefet le shlemut, she asta hakol kidei laamod be mesima” [Sayeret Mat’kal as it was founded by Avraham Ernan, is a close sect with tendency to perfectness and ready for everything to fulfill the goal]. HaAretz, July 9, 2008. [In Hebrew.]

Shif, Zeev, and Eitan Haber, eds. Leksikon LeBitakhon Israel [Security of Israel lexicon]. Tel Aviv, Israel: Zmura, Beitan, Modan, 1976. [In Hebrew.]

Shor, Avner. Hotze Gvulot: Sayeret Mat’kal u Meyesda Avraham Ernan [Crossing the borders: Sayeret Mat’kal and its founder Avraham Ernan]. Or Ehuda, Israel: Kineret, Zmura-Beitan, 2008. [In Hebrew.]





Yehidot Meiyohadod [Special units]. Atar ha Yehida (Israeli Defense Forces Units’ site). n.d.




Vladimirsky, Irena. "Sayeret Mat’kal (Israel)." Counterterrorism: From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Ed. Frank C. Shanty. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012. ABC-CLIO eBook Collection. Web. 26 Nov 2012.

Chicago Manual of Style

Vladimirsky, Irena. "Sayeret Mat’kal (Israel)." In Counterterrorism: From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Edited by Frank C. Shanty. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012.


Vladimirsky, I. (2012). Sayeret Mat’kal (Israel). In F. C. Shanty (Ed.), Counterterrorism: From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Retrieved from


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