If the Israeli air force is Israel’s long arm, then Shyetet 13 is its long boot. The Shayetet divers engage in guerilla combat and underwater commando warfare, and are able to reach any port undetected. They are trained in a variety of martial arts, and also undergo training and carry out joint ops with other IDF commando units. The wariors of Shayetet 13 are trained and equipped to successfuly engage Israel’s enemy anywhere in the world. They arrive at their target undetected, accomplish their mission, and disappear without leaving a trace. Shayetet 13, is one of the IDF’s most active commando units in Israel’s current war, “The War Between Wars“.
It is beleived that warriors from Shayetet 13 are responsible for the assassination of the Syrian Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman, who was shot by a sniper while at a beach resort near the Mediterranean port of Tartous in Syrian. Allegedly, two IDF’s navy seals came from the sea shot the General and left the same way they came without being noticed. Israel has never commented publicly on suspicions that it was involved.
In 2013, The UK’s Sunday Times newspaper exposed what it claims are new details on what Syria states are “Israeli espionage measures” planted on Ant Island – a tiny island opposite Syria’s Tartus Port in order to spy on Russian fleet. According to the report, divers from Shayetet 13 approached the island on one of the Israeli Navy’s German-built Dolphin class submarines under cover of darkness. The seals ferried the equipment on two inflatable dinghies equipped with silent outboard motors to Ant Island where they spent several hours installing it, disguising it and ensuring that the satellite links were operational. The report claims that the commandos’ immediate problem was not so much being spotted by the Syrians as the risk of detection by “friendly” patrols from the US Sixth Fleet and a British monitoring station in Cyprus that keeps a close watch on the Syrian coastline.
In 2014, Shayetet 13 intercepted major Iranian missile shipment to Gaza. The Navy commandos board the ship in early morning operation capturing advanced missiles with 200km range. The incident took place 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from Israel’s coast, in the Red Sea, off the Sudanese-Eritrean border. Israel had been tailing the ship for several days before the operation was launched.
Every year thousands new recruits apply to serve in this secret unit. Only few complete the grueling twenty months training program. Naval commando fighters endure one of the toughest training courses in the IDF in their bid to win their coveted unit batwings insignia. The twenty months of training includes basic training, which schools the troops in maritime warfare, and advanced training in combat diving, navigation and the Shayetet’s unique watercrafts. At the end of the course, fighters are assigned “professions”, and each team specializes in one of three commando roles: diving, raids, or above water.
Like its sister unit, the IDF’s elite units Sayeret Matkal; the General Staff reconnaissance unit that conducts deep reconnaissance behind enemy lines, and its other sister unit, Sayeret Shaldag, that its main goal is obtaining intelligence and carry out commando operations for the air force, Shaytet 13, the Navy commando unit, operates behind a heavy curtain of secrecy. Very few of its missions become public, usually when something goes wrong. However, since mistakes are rare, very few operational details about its successes are known.
Shayetet 13’s missions include sea-borne counter-terrorism, sabotage, recon and hostage rescue. Their missions remain for the most part classified but they took part on every major conflict Israel was part of, and some very successful operations deep inside Hizballah controlled Lebanon during the 1st and 2nd Lebanon wars. In the absence of an official conflict, IDF activity is based on what is referred to as “war between wars,” and the naval commando unit is undoubtedly one of the most influential factors in this arena. In the last year alone, Shaytet 13 has conducted numerous complex operations behind enemy lines, hidden from the eyes of the public.