Elite commando unit simulates hostage rescue operation

Sayeret Golani simulates a complex scenario in which terrorists infiltrate a building and takes dozens of hostages, who must be rescued at all costs

Date: 20/05/2012, 5:45 PM     Author: Iddan Sonsino

The kidnapping of hostages has led to some of the most egregious memories burned into the collective Israeli consciousness. Rescuing these civilians from terrorist captivity often calls for complex urban warfare skills and split-second actions. Such operations are commonplace for legendary IDF (Zahal) commando units.

Last week, one of these commando forces – the prestigious Sayeret Golani – held an exercise reflecting the extensive layers of preparations the IDF (Zahal) has made for worst-case terrorist scenarios.

The drill simulated a scenario in which a team of terrorists has infiltrated a building, taking dozens of hostages – providing a rare example of complex military activity involving hostages. The exercise ran the complete sequence of a breach, while the soldiers aimed to “rescue the hostages at all costs.”

Elite commando unit simulates hostage rescue operation

“The first goal is to rescue the hostages,” explained Lt. Mor, the Officer of Guerrilla Warfare and Counter-Terrorism. “We train to respond to a variety of complex scenarios, from engaging in negotiations to eliminating terrorists.”

Within seconds of the starting whistle, forces have breached the buildings at several different openings. Using ladders, groups of soldiers penetrate various areas of the building and move towards the areas where intelligence has determined civilians are being held. The soldiers move swiftly through hallways, clearing the building room by room.

“Because any hostage-taker can lay down his weapon and claim to be a civilian, we have to prepare for all scenarios, so we lead everyone out of the building with their hands in plain sight,” said Lt. Mor. All the while, reserve forces have surrounded the building and are ready to intervene if the situation deteriorates.

Several officers said that it is extremely important that each commando unit have a counter-terror squad trained through accurate simulations of real-life scenarios. While the squad’s main role is to isolate a situation until more specialized units can arrive, there is always a chance that the situation will deteriorate, necessitating immediate action. For this reason, the various commando units train counter-terror squads.

Each of these elite teams reports directly to a regional command, and they may operate in scenarios beyond these terrorist scenarios, which cannot be disclosed. “We are here for every event,” explains the team commander, Lt. Shay. “The capabilities of these squads come to bear in all regular security activities. Ultimately, counter-terror can counter everything, and we are ready to meet any scenario in any region.”