These are the elite special force units Israel could send into Gaza to clear Hamas' labyrinth of tunnels and rescue hostages

  • Israel has sent elite troops into Gaza as its ground invasion of the territory ramps up.

  • Herzi Halevi, chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said its "best soldiers" were in action.

  • They will be tasked with clearing the Hamas' labyrinth of tunnels and rescuing over 200 hostages.

Israel has indicated that it had sent elite troops into Gaza as it intensifies its ground operations against Hamas following the October 7 terrorist attacks.

Herzi Halevi, the chief of the general staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said in an update posted to X, formerly Twitter, that the IDF's "best soldiers and commanders" were now taking part in the offensive in Gaza.

Halevi said that Israel had entered the next stage of the war as it set about its goal of "dismantling Hamas, securing our borders, and the supreme effort to return the hostages home."

Here are the special forces units that could see action in Gaza.

Yahalom Unit

One squad that will be crucial in how Israel fares in underground warfare is the Yahalom Unit, which specializes in "locating and destroying" underground and hidden tunnels as well as carrying out sabotage missions, according to the IDF's website.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited Yahalom fighters, who are known as "weasels," telling them: "I rely on you. The people of Israel rely on you," Reuters reported.

Sayeret Matkal

Another important unit will be Sayeret Matkal, Israel's "field intelligence-gathering unit."

It carries out intelligence operations behind enemy lines, and, crucially, it conducts hostage recovery missions.

Modeled on the British SAS, it has a storied history, seeing action in the Yom Kippur War and both the First and Second Lebanon Wars. In the latter, it led "raids deep inside Lebanon," per the IDF.

It  is best known for its role in the 1976 Entebbe airport raid in Uganda, when its commandos saved 100 Israelis from Palestinian hijackers.

Shayetet 13

Shayetet 13 is a marine commando unit involved in ground, maritime, and airborne missions.

Its role encompasses attacking enemy marine infrastructure and intelligence.

The unit has already seen action in the conflict with Hamas, with footage reportedly showing it retaking a military post on the Gaza border following Hamas' attacks.


Shaldag Unit

Shaldag is one of the IDF's "most elite" squads. It's tasked with performing many classified operations that are not public knowledge.

Video footage posted by the IDF on YouTube on October 25 appeared to show soldiers from the unit taking out Hamas militants and rescuing people in Kibbutz Be'eri.

Duvdevan Commando Unit

The Duvdevan Unit specializes in working in "densely populated civilian areas," which could prove crucial in Gaza, where a population of more than 2 million people live in a strip of land that's around 25 miles long and around just eight miles wide at the widest point.

Its forces go undercover among local Arab populations, according to the IDF.

One of its highly-trained specialists, Sgt. First Class Itai Bausi, 22, fought Hamas fighters with his bare hands at  Supernova desert party on October 7, before he was killed, said witnesses, per The Times of Israel.

Egoz Unit

Egoz was specifically created to tackle the threat of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which Israel has been increasingly battling over the last few weeks.

Despite this, the unit now works across any region using guerrilla warfare, but it maintains a special focus on northern Israel.

Maglan Unit

Another unit that operates in enemy-held territory, Maglan's role is to destroy "specific targets" and build intelligence. It was initially formed in 1986 as an anti-tank warfare unit, per the IDF.

Three soldiers from the unit were killed in southern Israel during the October 7 terrorist attacks, The Times of Israel reported.

Oketz Unit

Solider and dog from the IDF's Oketz (“Sting” in Hebrew) is the IDF's canine unit.
Solider and dog from the IDF's Oketz (“Sting” in Hebrew) is the IDF's canine unit.Israeli Special Forces/Facebook

it is Israel's special forces K9 squad. It works in counter-terrorism and search and rescue missions, and it played a key role in rescuing more than 200 Israeli citizens on October 7, say reports.

The unit was created in 1974 to combat a rise in terrorist attacks on Israel, the IDF says.

Israel's ground offensive

Israel began its ground offensive on Saturday following an increased wave of airstrikes on the territory — the heaviest bombardment of the conflict so far.

Its military also dropped leaflets across Gaza City, telling people living there to evacuate.

"To the residents of the Gaza Strip: The Gaza governorate (Gaza City) has become a battlefield. Shelters in northern Gaza and Gaza governorate are not safe," read one leaflet in Arabic, per The Telegraph.

A picture taken from near the southern Israeli city of Sderot on October 28, 2023
An explosion seen from the southern Israeli city of Sderot.ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas militants utilize civilian buildings as bases and storage areas, while also building tunnel complexes beneath them to faciliate their operations and transport equipment.

The key to the offensive for Israel will be clearing this "spider's web" of tunnels that lie beneath the territory, say the IDF.

IDF spokesperson Jonathan Conricus said earlier this month that Hamas had built "a network of tunnels from Gaza City and under Gaza City" down to Khan Yunis and Rafah, turning the strip into "one layer for civilians and then another layer for Hamas."

"These aren't bunkers for the Gazan civilians to have access to when Israel is striking. It's only for Hamas and other terrorists so that they can continue to fire rockets at Israel, to plan operations, to launch terrorists into Israel," he added.

'Waiting to get punched in the face'

Soldiers marching with automatic weapons
Israeli soldiers march toward a possible ground fight with Hamas in GazaIlia Yefimovich/dpa

Fighting in the densely populated streets of Gaza and in Hamas' labyrinth of tunnels could help level the playing field between the two sides, however, as it may diminish the impact of some of the Israeli forces' technological advantages, The Associated Press reported.

"I usually say it's like walking down the street waiting to get punched in the face," John Spencer, a former US Army major and the chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, said, per The AP.

In such situations, those defending "had time to think about where they are going to be and there's millions of hidden locations they can be in. They get to choose the time of the engagement — you can't see them but they can see you," he added.

More than 1,400 Israelis have died since Hamas' October 7 terrorist attacks, and over 200 Israelis were taken hostage and abducted to Gaza. Gaza's Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll is now over 8,000, as a result of Israel's relentless bombing of the enclave, The AP reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider