As part of the final training exercise before the completion of their training, the soldiers of the Lotar Counter-Terror Unit trained to take on hostage crises in real urban environments. As the soldiers responsible for teaching the art of urban warfare to the rest of the IDF (Zahal), their technique and ability must always be at the highest level. This is how the exercise went:

Lotar counter-terror teams save the day in mock hostage crisis

At 16:00, eight terrorists infiltrated the village of Naham and went on two killing sprees. A team of soldiers from the Duvdevan unit were the first to respond. After exchanging fire twice, the terrorists fled to a nearby building and took 15 civilians hostage. The soldiers killed two terrorists before they entered the building. In exchange for the hostages, the terrorists demanded the exchange of 426 prisoners before 00:30.

Duvdevan maintained their observation posts around the building and snipers fanned out to cover it from all angles. Nearby, two Lotar assault teams prepared to breach the building.

Lotar counter-terror teams save the day in mock hostage crisis

In a hostage crisis, information is the most vital resource there is. You need to know the layout of the building, how many terrorists are inside, where they’re located, and what weapons they’re using. The town hall sent the building blueprints, and IDF (Zahal) intelligence teams were searching through pictures and videos to find where the doors, windows, and other entrances are located.

Intel began to arrive. Snipers saw a terrorist playing with wires on the third floor. The hallway was open to the outside, like a balcony. The building had both a ground floor entrance and an entrance to the second floor.

By 23:00, the two Lotar assault teams had divided the responsibilities. One team would breach the ground floor. Simultaneously, the other team would breach from the second floor and would spread out between the second and third floor. They constructed the layout of each floor out of wooden planks on the ground and ran repeated dry runs until it became second nature.

Lotar counter-terror teams save the day in mock hostage crisis

By 00:05, the two teams headed out towards the building. On the snipers’ count, the assault teams stormed the building and swarmed out, killing the terrorists and evacuating the hostages. By 00:06 it was all over. Every terrorist was dead, the hostages were receiving medical care, and the assault teams packed up and headed back. The entire operation was over almost as soon as it began.

Lotar counter-terror teams save the day in mock hostage crisis

“These exercises are incredibly valuable to us. They let us train for realistic scenarios in a real urban environment,” Cpt. Ram, the team commander said. “The exercise gives the soldiers an opportunity to learn, to develop new tactics, and to better prepare for real situations.”

Because the Lotar Counter-Terror team’s primary role is to train other units in counter terror tactics, their training is extremely intensive. During the exercise, the skills of every soldier are evaluated, giving the soldiers an opportunity to continue improving their operational capabilities.

With the rise of global Islamist terrorism, these exercises take on an added importance. The scenarios that the soldiers train for have actually happened. They were on full display during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, when the IDF (Zahal) went into Gaza to stop Hamas rocket fire and to sniff out Hamas terror tunnels. “Our enemies constantly attempt to find new ways to attack us,” said Cpt. Ram. “The most important skill for my soldiers to have is the ability to improvise; to handle whatever is thrown their way.”