Branch Israel Border Police
Type Special Operations
Role Domestic counter-terrorism and law enforcement
Size about 200 officers
The Yamam (Hebrew: ימ“מ, an acronym for Special Central Unit (יחידה מרכזית מיוחדת, Yehida Merkazit Meyuhedet)) is an Israeli elite counter-terrorism unit, one of four special units of the Israel Border Police. The Yamam is capable of both hostage-rescue operations and offensive take-over raids against targets in civilian areas. Besides military duties, it also performs SWAT duties and undercover police work.
The Yamam was established in late 1974 after the Ma’alot massacre , where a failed operation by military special forces units resulted in the 21 children being murdered before the hostage takers were killed. Since hostage rescue in friendly territory is different from that in hostile areas, it was decided to establish an elite civilian force, which develops and practices a special CQB (Close Quarters Battles) doctrine for „counter-terrorism“ operations in friendly territory and hostage rescue.
Operational record 1974 – September 2000
Some of the missions known to the public prior to the al-Aqsa Intifada are listed below:
- March 1978, a Yamam force engaged the terrorists who took over a bus in an event known as the „Coastal Road massacre „.
- In March 1988, the Yamam was called into action after a group of three Palestinians hijacked a bus full of women returning from work at the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona, in an incident known as the „Mothers‘ Bus attack „. The Yamam struck, killing all three hijackers, but not managing to prevent three Israeli passengers from being killed.
- September 8, 1992: Yamam snipers shot and killed Eithan more, who killed 4 women in Mental Health clinic in Jerusalem .
- May 3, 1994: Yamam snipers shot and killed armed man in Uzi Meshoolam ’s compound after he shot at a police helicopter .
- On March 3, 2000, the Yamam captured an armed group hidden in the Israeli–Arab town of Tayibe with the aid of Sayeret Duvdevan and an IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozer . In the end of the raid, one man was arrested and four were killed.
Operational record during the Second Intifada During the Second Intifada , under the Shin Bet ’s command, Yamam forces intercepted many terrorists, either by arresting them or killing them. Several high profile terrorists were killed by Yamam operators. Often, when the wanted Palestinian militants barricaded inside a building, Yamam force put a siege on it while IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozers forced them out by razing the structure.
Honors and awards
- In October 2010, the Yamam won the „Urban Shield “ SWAT competition held by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office setting a new record in the competition.
- In October 2011, the Yamam won the „Urban Shield“ SWAT competition held by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for the second consecutive year.
Name and structure
In Israel, the Yamam is also known as the „Unit for Counter-Terror Warfare“ (Hebrew : היחידה ללוחמה בטרור). It is subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Security central command and is part of the civilian Israel Police force, specifically the Israel Border Police . Its operators and officers are professional policemen on payroll, usually with infantry experience from their military service within the Israel Defense Forces . Yamam recruits its members exclusively from Israeli units.
The unit is primarily responsible for civilian hostage rescue within Israel’s borders, but from about the mid-1990s it has also been used for tasks such as arresting police suspects who have barricaded themselves in structures and requiring specialized extraction methods, as well as in personal security for VIPs and in counter-terror operations within the West Bank and Gaza Strip . The Yamam are schooled in basic Arabic and dress to assimilate within the Arab population to avoid detection in order to carry out raids to arrest those suspected of conducting terrorist activities within Israel. However, most of the Yamam’s activity is classified, and published Yamam operations are often credited to other units.
The Yamam has around 200 officers, and consists a headquarters element, an intelligence section and a small team responsible for the development of new operational techniques and testing new equipment. Aside from these central elements, the bulk of the unit is divided into a number of sections, each consisting of five teams, each containing operators with a particular specialization, so that the section includes within its numbers all the elements needed for a successful operation: roping team, entry team, medic team, sniping team, dog team, EOD team (demolition and bomb disposal). Thus, whereas an IDF special forces operation needs to assemble elements from different specialist units, in Yamam, they are all permanently part of the same unit, living, training and operating together.
Applicants for Yamam must be between 22 and 30 years old and must have completed their three-year infantry service in the IDF with a level 7 of IDF training or higher, although no previous police experience is required. Unlike American SWAT teams, the YAMAM is a professional unit with only combat duties and no other police type work. The selection process includes a „hell week“ said to be one of the hardest in the world. This level of difficulty is achieved because all the applicants are already seasoned combat soldiers, like the US Delta force. The skills they are looking for in every candidate are: intelligence, physical fitness, motivation, trustworthiness, accountability, maturity, stability, judgment, decisiveness, teamwork, influence, and communication. Training lasts six months and is carried out in the unit’s own training center, although some use is made of the facilities at the IDF Counter Terror Warfare School (LOTAR, Unit 707.) The course is divided into a three-month general CT training period at the end of which recruits are selected for their specialization and then concentrate for the remaining four months on that specialization. Upon graduation, individuals are posted to fill gaps in the sections. Yamam considers that it has several advantages over the IDF counter-terror units, first, because the men are more mature, most in their mid 30’s and early 40’s, and spend much longer in the unit than the equivalent military units, and, second, because the units contain a far broader range of ages and experience. The Yamam is self-dependent, training its own operators in all fields, such as sniping , reconnaissance, dog operating, bomb disposal , etc. As a result, the Yamam has a rapid deployment time and high coordination between various squads (sniping squad, entry team, engagement force, etc.).
- Glock-17 Pistol
- Glock-19 Pistol
- Glock-26 back-up weapon
- Para Micro-Uzi
- M4 carbine
- Colt Commando
- Remington 870 Combat Shotgun
- Benelli M4
- SR25 Sniper rifle
- PGM Sniper rifle