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Special operations

Failed attempt of Sayeret Matkal to rescue IDF soldier Wachsman

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Sayeret Tzanhanim members

The infamous rescue attempt of Nachshon Wachsman carried out by Sayeret Matkal. The operation started as an incident in which Palestinian Hamas kidnapped Israeli soldier Nachshon Wachsman from the Bnai Atarot junction in central Israel, and held him hostage for 6 days.

The incident ended in a failed Israeli rescue attempt, during which Wachsman was killed by his captors while dozen Israeli commandos were wounded. Three of his captors and an Israeli officer were also killed.

First phase – kidnapping

At home on a leave, Wachsman was instructed by the military to attend a one-day training course in northern Israel. He left Saturday night after Shabbat, telling his parents he would return Sunday night, October 9, 1994. He was last seen by a friend who reported that, after completing the training, Wachsman had been dropped off at the Bnai Atarot junction, a highly populated area in central Israel, where he could either catch a bus or hitchhike, a common practice of Israeli soldiers, to Jerusalem.

Israeli intelligence learned that Wachsman entered a car in which there were Hamas militants wearing kippot, who had a Tanakh and siddur on the dashboard, and Chassidic music playing.

Mohammed Deif stated that he was the commander of the operation to abduct Wachsman.

Video message from Wachsman

On October 11, 1994, a videotape was broadcast showing Wachsman, with his hands and feet bound, before a keffiyeh-covered militant who was displaying Wachsman’s identity card. After the militant recited the hostage’s home address and identity number, Wachsman spoke, with the armed militant behind him, saying:

“The group from Hamas kidnapped me. They are demanding the release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and another 200 from Israeli prison. If their demands are not met, they will execute me on Friday at 8 P.M.”

Nachshon’s parents personally appealed to world leaders, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, US President Bill Clinton, and Muslim religious leaders.

On October 14, 1994, with 24 hours until the ultimatum, prayer vigils were held in many places. Over 100,000 people representing all religious, political, and social segments of the Israeli population gathered at the Western Wall. Responding to a request by Esther Wachsman, Nachshon’s mother, many women lit an extra Sabbath candle for her son.

Phase two – Rescue attempt

In the meantime, the Israeli military had captured Jihad Yarmur, the driver of the car that had picked up Wachsman. Interrogating Yarmur, they learned that Wachsman was being held in the village of Bir Nabala, a location under Israeli control located only ten minutes away from Wachsman’s home in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. Prime Minister Rabin authorized a military rescue attempt.

sayeret matkal patch logo insignia - Failed attempt of Sayeret Matkal to rescue IDF soldier Wachsman

Sayeret Matkal insignia

On Friday, October 14 Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat announced that they had won the Nobel Peace Prize. When Peres was asked his opinion on the “peace” that he had achieved in Oslo in light of Hamas’ impending deadline, he responded that the peace process involves “calculated risks.”

Sayeret Matkal in direct action

At 20:00 that night, at the hour of the ultimatum, elite IDF commandos from the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit carried out an operation to free Wachsman. It was thought that Wachsman was being held behind an iron door, but in fact, it was a solid steel door, and the first explosion only dented the iron door. The commandos immediately lost the element of surprise, giving Wachsman’s captors inside time to shoot him dead and position themselves for the impending firefight.

A second explosive charge was prepared and the door was finally blasted open after more than a minute, and after a heavy exchange of fire with gunmen waiting on the stairwell, the commandos reached a second iron door and had to wait another four minutes for the charges to be set. During this time, the commandos shouted to the gunmen inside to surrender, while the gunmen replied that Waschsman was already dead and that they preferred to die.

sayeret matkal soldiers - Failed attempt of Sayeret Matkal to rescue IDF soldier WachsmanAfter the team broke through the door, another exchange of fire took place before the room was secured. In total, three gunmen were killed and two taken prisoner, while the leader of the commando team, Captain Nir Poraz was killed and nine commandos were wounded. Wachsman was found dead in the room. His body was slumped in a chair, wearing a kafiyeh and civilian clothes. He had been shot in the throat and chest at close range. The Wachsman family was informed of his death personally by General Yoram Yair.

The Wachsman family was informed of his death personally by General Yoram Yair.

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Assault Rifles / Carbines

Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm

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Exercito Portugues substitui a espingarda automatica G3

On the 20th February 2019, FN Herstal was awarded a major contract for thousands of assault rifles,  by NATO’s Support & Procurement Agency (NSPA) on behalf of the Portuguese Army.  The contract is for the 5.56x45mm  caliber FN SCAR L assault rifles. Included in this contrat, FN will also supply other guns, namely the FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 light and medium machine guns respectively, and the designated Marksman Rifle SCAR-H in 7,62x51mm.

C57I5366 4 640x427 - Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm

The NSPA, is the main logistics and procurement agency of NATO and is able to handle and support procurement for member nations. NSPA described the contract as a ‘major milestone’ for the agency. The contract was signed by FN’s sales director and NSPA General Manager.

NSPA made a short statement:

“NSPA awarded today a contract to Belgium-based FN Herstal, one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of small caliber weapons. This is for the Agency a major contract to produce FN SCAR® assault rifles and FN MINIMI® machine guns as new standard issue weapons for the Portuguese Army’s.

The contract includes the manufacture and supply of 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO caliber FN SCAR® assault rifles, FN40GL grenade launchers, MINIMI® 5.56 and 7.62 Mk3 Tactical light machine guns, and all related accessories.

The Portuguese Army’s standard issue service rifle is currently a Portuguese license produced variant of the Heckler & Koch G3, while the MG3 and HK21 are used in the General Purpose and Light Machine Gun purpose. The exact size of this new contract and its worth have not yet been announced, but In 2017, when the program was released, the acquisition called for 11 000 assault rifles in 5.56x45mm. The value of this weapons package procurement would be €42.8 million ($50.3 million).

This is a major acquisition for the Portuguese Army as the old G3 Battle Rifles are outdated, even in its class, and are obvious not adequate for the assault role. This purchase does not only manage to replace the G3 Battle rifle with one of the best current assault rifles, if not the best, but it will allow that the Portuguese Army to change the fire dynamics of it´s small units, increasing firepower and combat capabilities and being able to have more Hit probability on the enemy.

C57I5761 3 640x461 - Portuguese Army new Assault Rifle: SCAR-L in 5,56x45mm

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Special operations

Ansariya Ambush: Israel’s SOF Greatest Military Defeat

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shayetet 13 commandos in Ansariya Ambush - Ansariya Ambush: Israel's SOF Greatest Military Defeat

The 12 Israeli soldiers killed in an ambush in southern Lebanon on September 5, 1997 were betrayed by a Lebanese double agent. It was Israel’s greatest military humiliation in Lebanon since 1985 and Hezbollah’s most crushing intelligence operation ever. Even the Israeli map that led the soldiers to their deaths was allegedly drawn by the pro-Iranian militia, the Independent reported.

On September 5, 1997, the unit suffered a major blow during a raid in Lebanon. A force of sixteen Shayetet 13 commandos landed on Lebanon’s coast, south of Sidon between the towns of Loubieh and Ansariya. Speculation about their mission was that they were trying to assassinate a senior Shia Muslim cleric of the Hezbollah movement. In fact, it was this same leader – the assassination target of the Israelis – who set up what can only be described as a classic guerrilla ambush.

Ansariya Ambush 1997 - Ansariya Ambush: Israel's SOF Greatest Military Defeat

Ansariya Ambush Lebanon, 1997

They landed in the dark early hours of that Friday and started moving inland. The IDF said the force had been “on its way to its mission” when it was ambushed. Hezbollah and Amal commandos were lying in wait for them. The clash took place outside a 15-km deep security zone which Israel occupied in south Lebanon. The soldiers were ambushed after entering an orchard booby-trapped with bombs, which exploded as they entered.

The IDF knew that on September 4, 1997, while the Shayetet commandos were sailing toward Lebanon, Hezbollah went radio silent. The MID estimated at the time the decision had to do with the raised level of alert in Hezbollah, which was worried about Israeli retaliation for a terror attack in Jerusalem earlier in the day, which claimed the lives of three Israelis. No one even imagined the possibility Hezbollah raised the level of alert in the organization because of an intelligence leak. Radio silence normally means the enemy was waiting, Ynetnews revealed.

“Even in a group skydive, there comes a moment when the skydivers let go of each other, and then each is left to himself, alone with the parachute.”

The commandos were knocked to the ground and came under heavy fire, killing the force’s commander, Lt. Col. Yossi Korakin almost immediately. More commandos were killed when the firing triggered the explosives one of the commandos was carrying. Israel immediately dispatched a rescue team in a CH-53 helicopter. A rescue force of helicopters and missile boats arrived, joining in a battle that lasted until dawn as the rescuers evacuated the dead. Mortar shells exploded nearby, killing a doctor in the rescue force, and shrapnel hit the CH-53, but it was able to take off.

The IDF lost twelve dead, including eleven Shayetet 13 commandos, while six Hezbollah and Amal fighters and two Lebanese soldiers were also killed. The uncollected remains of the Israeli soldiers were returned to Israel on June 25, 1998 in a prisoner exchange deal.

After 14 years, Hezbollah revealed that they knew the position of the commandos in advance thanks to the interception of video footage broadcast by Israeli UAVs that were hovering over the area in the days before the mission.

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