One of the challenges facing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip is Hamas' network of tunnels.
This Palestinian terrorist group has a large part of its facilities in underground galleries built under hospitals, housing blocks and other civilian buildings, using them as human shields, which is a war crime according to the Conventions of Geneva 1949.
To combat in this type of environment, in 1995 the IDF created the Yahalom Special Unit, dependent on the Combat Engineering Corps of the Israeli Ground Forces. The unit is based at Camp Emmanuel, in central Israel, and some data about it is classified, starting with the number of soldiers in it.
The IDF website defines Yahalom as the "tip of the spear" of the Combat Engineering Corps: "the unit is trained to deal with special engineering tasks that are unique to it, such as the underground and hidden terror tunnels as well as sabotage."
According to the IDF, this unit "is the professional and superior authority for handling of dangerous ammunition and weapons, and Yahalom has provided assistance to IDF units in special engineering tasks with ground and water obstacles. The unit is headed by an officer with the rank of colonel", so it is likely to have the size of a regiment.
Yahalom played a key role in Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, carrying out the destruction of Hamas terrorists' tunnel infrastructure in Gaza as well as defending Israeli forces, for which it doubled its number of soldiers, doubling its capabilities.
Yahalom's missions include special operations of sabotage, demolition and explosion of buildings, sabotage of enemy infrastructure, handling of explosives, preparation of explosive devices and bombs, neutralization of enemy explosive devices, clearing complex minefields, locating and destruction of terrorist tunnels, being especially known for this last mission.
To carry out their missions, Yahalom use explosive disposal robots and other remotely guided systems, which reduces the risk of casualties in the dangerous missions that this unit faces.
Yahalom is divided into several specialized units. The Samur Unit (Weasel) is in charge of locating and destroying terrorist tunnels. They also have an anti-aircraft artillery unit, Sapir (Sapphire), in charge of eliminating enemy ammunition. Another of its units, Midron Mushlag (Nevada Slope), specializes in close-quarters combat. Yahalom also has an explosives disposal unit, SAP, and another unit specialized in disabling weapons of mass destruction, Sayfan.
The IDF has published today an interesting video dedicated to this unit, which shows some images of their training:
Photos: Israel Defense Forces.
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