Amir Landsman: The Role of Shayetet 13 and the Navy SEAL
Shayetet 13 is the naval special forces unit of the Israeli Navy, one of the primary special operations units of the Israel Defense Forces. S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and boarding.
While Amir Landsman cannot share his experiences as part of a Naval Commando Unit in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with his friends and family members, the role of the Navy SEAL in both the United States and in Israel is one of intervention and swift response to threats domestically and abroad.
Shayetet 13, or S13 as it is more commonly called, provides operational support and is known throughout the Middle East and the world for its high degree of secrecy. Amir Landsman’s work for this military unit remains classified, but the general history of the unit is a matter of public record.
The Founding of S13
Israeli Shayetet 13
Shayetet 13 was originally founded in 1949 by Commander Yohai Ben-Nun. Ben-Nun was a career military officer and joined the naval branch of the IDF in 1944. S13 was established in part as a response to the outbreak of hostilities in 1948 that marked the beginning of the First Arab-Israeli War. Ben-Nun and other IDF officers saw the need for a rapid response naval team that could take on high-risk missions with a fighting chance to succeed. Among the duties and tasks envisioned for the S13 unit were surveillance, counterintelligence and counterterrorism, hostage rescues and sabotage of enemy assets and resources. Commander Ben-Nun took on one of the first missions personally and used an explosive on a small boat to take out a large Egyptian destroyer threatening his team’s location. This set the tone for later activities and missions taken on by S13 during this and later wars.
The Suez Oil Crisis
Suez Canal Crisis
The S13 unit experienced a number of setbacks during the 1956 Suez Oil Crisis
. These highly trained naval soldiers were deemed too valuable to risk on ordinary missions and were unsuccessful in performing reconnaissance during the initial stages of the conflict. Other efforts to recover enemy aircraft and to perform infiltration tasks met with failure as well, limiting the usefulness of the S13 unit in direct combat support situations. The first major success for S13 came in July of 1967 when members of the unit blew up an Egyptian railroad line in retaliation for shelling by the Egyptians.
The Green Island Raid
Green Island Raid
A turning point in the history of Shayetet 13 occurred in 1969 during the War of Attrition. S13 forces took part in Operation Bulmus 6, a daring night raid on a heavily defended Egyptian early warning radar and electronic signals intelligence station on Green Island. This fortress was constructed by the British military to provide protection for the Suez Canal during World War II. The S13 Green Island Raid was a stunning success for these elite commandos and resulted in the near-total destruction of the Egyptian radar installation.
Today, members of S13 continue to perform top-secret missions on behalf of their country. Like U.S. Navy SEALs, S13 commandos undergo extensive training in combat techniques, infiltration and reconnaissance and other skills necessary to their military duties. As a former member of this elite team, Amir Landsman has a unique perspective on both his professional and his personal life.
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