An infiltration into Israeli territory in order to kidnap civilians: this is the strategy favored by terrorist organizations attempting to harm Israeli citizens. The Lotar Counter-Terrorism Unit trains the soldiers that instruct elite IDF (Zahal) units how to respond to these threats. The unit specializes in teaching methods to release hostages, and prepare the soldiers to face any scenario that may be thrown at them.
“Terrorists have infiltrated the Shavei Hebron yeshiva (a Jewish institution),” informs the commander of the Lotar Counter-Terrorism Unit during a briefing in the operations room, located in the center of Hebron near the yeshiva. “There are reports of four to six terrorists who have taken 20 people hostage.”
The soldiers slowly begin moving towards the yeshiva under the cover of the night. They find the room where the hostages are being held and take the terrorists by surprise. Then they systematically search the other rooms in the building. The operation to release the hostages has taken less than one minute.
This scenario is part of the Lotar Counter-Terrorism Unit’s final week of training, in which the soldiers of the unit are faced with different scenarios throughout the week.
“The exercise in Hebron is exceptional because it takes place in a real urban environment, in a place that many events have happened in the past,” said Lt. Col. Erez, commander of the Lotar Unit. “These exercises help us improve; we learn new tactics that help us respond better to the situations we may face.”
In another situation the soldiers face during this arduous week, terrorists take control of a bus and hold its passengers hostage. The soldiers must regain control of the bus, neutralize the terrorists, and free the hostages. One team is responsible for breaking the windows of the bus and neutralizing the terrorists, while the second team enters through the doors and takes control of the vehicle. “Some of the situations that the soldiers had to face this week actually happened during the operation in Gaza,” said Lt. Col. Erez. “The exercise is more relevant now than ever.”
“In each situation, the soldiers had to use different techniques,” summarized Lt. Deen, a team commander. “The exercise has evaluated the skills of every soldier. The unit’s requirements are very high since it will be up to the soldiers to pass on their knowledge to other combat units. The soldiers are determined and professional, and they proved to us that we can count on them.”