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Ehud Barak, a commander of Sayaret Matkal during the Operation Spring of Youth (1973) Ehud Barak, a commander of Sayaret Matkal during the Operation Spring of Youth (1973)

Special operations

Operation Spring of Youth – retaliation for the Munich massacre

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Operation Spring of Youth was part of Operation Wrath of God planned and executed by Israelian Army. Operation Spring of Youth was practically an Israeli raid on Lebanon and it took place on the late night of April 9 and early morning of April 10, 1973. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) special forces units, with Sayeret Matkal leading engaged targets in Beirut and Sidon, Lebanon. The primary target was Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

sayeret matkal - Operation Spring of Youth - retaliation for the Munich massacre

The operation later became known as part of the retaliation for the bloody Munich massacre at the Summer Olympics in 1972. The terror organization Black September claimed responsibility for the attack.

The IDF troops arrived at the Lebanese beaches in specially designed speedboats launched from missile boats offshore. The great preparation from Mossad agents was crucial. They awaited the IDF special forces troops on the beaches with cars rented the previous day. They used cars to drove IDF troops to their objectives and later back to the beaches for extraction.

Operation Spring of Youth has taken out three of the highest-level PLO leaders. They were surprised at home and killed along with other PLO members. As collateral damage, several Lebanese security people and civilian neighbors were also killed. The IDF had only two casualties.

The military background of Operation Spring of Youth

Ehud Barak was commander of the elite IDF Special Forces unit, Sayeret Matkal. In February 1973, he obtained photographs and precise information on the whereabouts of three senior PLO leaders:

  • Muhammad Youssef al-Najjar (Abu Youssef) – an operations leader in Black September, the group responsible for the 1972 Munich massacre. He was also a PLO veteran, previously head of the Lebanese Fatah branches, head of Fatah internal intelligence organization. His latest duties were head of the PLO’s political department and one of Yasser Arafat’s deputies (third in line of Fatah’s leadership).
  • Kamal Adwan – a PLO chief of operations, responsible for numerous armed attacks against Israeli targets.
  • Kamal Nasser – a poet, PLO spokesman and member of the PLO Executive Committee.

The Operation Spring of Youth – overview

In late night on April 9, 1973, Israeli Navy missile boats departed from Haifa naval base, carrying the IDF commandos and special designed Zodiac speedboats on board. When they reached the shores of Beirut, the Zodiacs boarded with commandos in full gear, were lowered into the water. To avoid being heard, they turned the motors off when they were a few hundred meters from land and rowed the rest of the way in. They came ashore to the perimeter, where Mossad agents already were waiting for them with three cars rented day earlier as a coverup. The Mossad operatives drove them to their targets.

The leading formation, from three Sayeret Matkal commando teams, entered the buildings and planted door breachers (explosive fuses) at the apartment doors of their targets while a backup team led by Ehud Barak remained outside and stood guard to repel possible PLO reinforcements or Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) Gendarmerie units. When the door breacher exploded, the IDF commandos stormed the apartments, gunned down the three targets, and seized whatever documents they could find in very short amount of time. Kamal Nasser, a Christian, was according to Palestinian reports, shot in front of his family, with his bullet wounds tracing the sign of the cross., Al-Najjar’s wife was killed during the melee, as the collateral damage. At the same time, the backup team led by Barak engaged in a heavy firefight with a few dozen Lebanese ISF gendarmes and PLO reinforcements. In a gunfight, two Lebanese policemen were killed. The reinforcements were repelled off and Mossad agents extracted the IDF commandos from the scene. While driving to the extraction point, they encountered a Lebanese Army armored personnel carrier (APC) as it scanned the shore. They were not confronted and continued on to the beach, where the IDF commandos and drivers abandoned the cars and returned to the missile boats in Zodiacs.

The raid on PFLP

At the same time when Sayeret Matkal lead operation against PLO, 14 Israeli commandos, mainly Sayeret Tzanhanim paratroopers stormed a building that housed militants of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The commandos were disguised as civilians and led by Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. They met strong resistance early on. The building was heavily guarded by nearly 100 militants, and shortly after IDF commandos were engaged in a close-quarters battle. Numerous militants from PFLP on the building’s upper floors repeatedly attempted to take the elevator to the ground floor and join the ongoing battle, but each squad was wiped out by IDF commandos waiting near the elevator doors. The Israeli commandos managed to place a large explosive charge inside the building and detonate it, causing part of the building to collapse. The team leader Lipkin-Shahak then requested an air evacuation. They were extracted by Israeli Air Force helicopters. The final outcome was two Israeli soldiers dead and dozens of PFLP militants killed during the firefight.

Sayeret Tzanhanim members - Operation Spring of Youth - retaliation for the Munich massacre

Among these two main objectives, the two secondary forces also attacked the Fatah headquarters for Gaza operations and a Fatah workshop in Beirut. Also, small Fatah bomb factory in north Beirut was destroyed by Shayetet 13 naval commandos while paratroopers raided and destroyed the PLO’s main garage, located just south of Sidon.

That was one of most notorious secret operations ever performed. It was directed by Mossad and taken out by IDF special forces.

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Special operations

The Real U.S. Special Operations Command

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sof operators - The Real U.S. Special Operations Command

Most perceptions of special operations are formed by movies like “American Sniper,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Lone Survivor” or “Black Hawk Down.”

Here are some facts you should know about U.S. Special Operations Command:

  • U.S. Special Operations Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Army Gen. Tony Thomas turned over the reins of the worldwide combatant command to Army Gen. Richard Clarke today.
  • The command was formed after the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, a mission to rescue the American hostages in Tehran, Iran, in April 1980. Eight American special operations personnel died in the effort. A study faulted a lack of cooperation among the forces. This led to the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1987 and on, April 16, 1987, the establishment of SOCOM.
  • The military services man, train and equip their own special operations forces, but when they are used together, they come under the purview of SOCOM.
  • Two special operators — Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shugart — posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their heroism in Mogadishu, Somalia on the Day of the Ranger, Oct. 3, 1993, during the battle made famous in “Black Hawk Down.”
  • Special operators were among the first U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 9/11. One battle from this time illustrates just how joint special operations has become. In 2002, atop Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Air Force combat controllers and Army special operations helicopters fought al-Qaida insurgents. Two men — a SEAL and an airman — received the Medal of Honor for that action.
  • Army Special Forces — the Green Berets — specialize in working with indigenous forces. They performed this mission during the Vietnam War and continue with it today as they work with Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS.
  • The Marine Corps did not have troops assigned to Socom until 2006. Now an integral part of the command, the Marines specialize in direct action and special reconnaissance operations.
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Special operations

Rescue of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 117 over in 30 secs flat

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Singapore SAF - Rescue of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 117 over in 30 secs flat

Fred Cheong, 55, has done a lot more than the average person across two starkly different lives. The Special Forces commando graduated from the excruciating US Navy SEAL course, stormed a hijacked Singapore Airlines plane, and molded multiple batches of officer cadets into soldiers.

After leaving the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Cheong became a Buddhist monk. Since then he has lived simply in a monastery, meditated on snow-capped mountains deep in the Himalayas, and led dharma retreats all over the world.

This is why Cheong prefers to be known as the Venerable Tenzin Drachom, a name given by the Dalai Lama and an acknowledgment of his 32-year military career.

“In Tibetan ‘dra’ means delusion, ‘chom’ means destroyer,” he told Channel NewsAsia at his temple-like maisonette in Pasir Ris. “In the military, I destroyed the enemy outside. Now I destroy the enemy inside.”

But as a young, scrawny boy, Drachom never had ambitions of joining the military. Or any strong ambitions, for that matter. “I was not very strong, I couldn’t even swim,” he said. “Maybe I was thinking I wanted to be an air steward.”

In December 1982, the 18-year-old enlisted for National Service and eventually signed on as an officer cadet, after seeing his bunkmates do the same. “Might as well,” he mused. “I thought (joining) the military could not be wrong.”

Hijack of Flight SQ117

Mar 26, 1991 was a day the military could not afford to get wrong.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ117 bound for Singapore was hijacked by four male Pakistani passengers shortly after it took off from Kuala Lumpur.

The plane, carrying 114 passengers and 11 crew, landed at Changi Airport at about 10.30pm. The hijackers, armed with knives, lighters and what looked like explosives, assaulted the pilot, attendants and passengers. Two stewards were pushed off the plane.

The hijackers, who wanted the plane refueled and flown to Sydney, made their demands: To speak to former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and have the authorities release a number of people jailed in Pakistan.

After negotiations spilled into the wee hours of the next morning, the hijackers lost patience and threatened to start killing if their demands were not met.

It was then that authorities gave the signal: Special Operations Force (SOF) commandos were ordered to storm the plane and rescue the hostages. Drachom, by then a seasoned SOF trooper, was part of the team.

“When the time came, it was ‘just do it’,” he said. “There was no mental thought of will I go, will I not go or I’ll call my girlfriend. No bulls***.”

From their training, the commandos knew the interior layout of various aircraft types like the back of their hands. Under the cover of darkness, they approached the Airbus A310.

The adrenaline was pumping, but Drachom treated the operation like “just another drill”.

“You’ve trained your mind to operate under duress,” he said, taking a deep breath. “It was really surgical … so we just have to be very clear, shoot very straight, and let’s do it.”

Rescue of SQ117 660x375 - Rescue of Singapore Airlines flight SQ 117 over in 30 secs flat

The rescue operation naturally made front page news. (Photo: Facebook/National Library Singapore via Singapore Press Holdings)

At about 6.50am the commandos stormed the plane, shouted for passengers to get down and shot all four hijackers dead. The operation lasted just 30 seconds. The years of training prepared the commandos well, but did it also prepare them to take lives?

“We were really quite clear when we went inside there; we knew exactly what to do,” Drachom replied. “You cannot go there and start to think. We go there and do what we train for because there will be that trade-off.”

Drachom stressed that “there wasn’t any ego” from each member of the team. “You were just there to do the job,” he added. “Nothing more.”

When the commandos returned to base, Drachom said nobody there knew how the operation had unfolded. But soon enough, elite forces from around the world wanted to visit, curious about how they had executed the mission so successfully.

The operation, Drachom noted, had elevated the young Army’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

“Only after the whole thing, we realized that we had rallied and pulled through together as a team,” he added. “What kept us going was a good training system; our due faith in every level that everyone will do their job.”

The details of the operation are still fresh in Drachom’s mind, although he said the team has declared the chapter “forever closed”. “We closed it because we wish that it will never happen again,” he said.

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