While US president Barack Obama coined his approach to the struggle against the Islamic State with the words: “Ideologies are not defeated by guns. They’re defeated with better ideas.” – Israel and its military leaders are taking no chances against a declared enemy.
Last Friday, July 3, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Sinai branch fired three Grad missiles across the border into the Israeli Eshkol district, while it was in mid-offensive against the Egyptian army in North Sinai. Large parts of southern Israel next door had already been declared closed military areas in consequence of that offensive.
ISIS and its affiliates, while currently preoccupied with snatching up territory from countries neighboring Israel, make no secret of their intention, confirmed by military intelligence, to reach Israel’s northern, eastern and southern borders before long.
Monday, July 6, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott unveiled Israel’s answer to the coming challenge. It is a unique, multi-purpose commando ground force, especially tailored to fight ISIS and provide the “boots on the ground” which the US-led coalition has kept back from the Islamists’ constantly expanding warfront.
It will be trained and armed for extraordinary missions outside routine military tasks.
The revelation was something of a wake-up call for the general Israeli population. The new force’s short term tasks are to guard southern and northern Israel against hostile rocket fire and attempts by Islamist groups riding captured armored carriers to storm the border. This happened once before on Aug. 6, 2012, when Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis Islamists (who later joined ISIS) broke through the Egyptian-Israeli Kerem Shalom border crossing from Sinai. Their APCs had driven almost up to a military base before they were wiped out by Israeli warplanes.
The new Commando Brigade is designed for quiet, bold, covert and effective action against terrorist groups posing a threat from the Sinai Desert to Egyptian sovereignty and Israel’s southern border. Such action would be coordinated closely between Israeli and Egyptian military and intelligence arms.
Similar operations would also be staged if necessary from Israel’s northern border – against Hizballah or any threat from Syria.
The new outfit brings together the different skills and the high, focused fire power rendered by the four elite units' assorted weaponry. In this sense, these units, all highly adept in different aspects of covert and stealth operations deep behind enemy lines, complement one another. This amalgam that may be loosely likened to a unique combination of US Delta, Seals, Rangers, and airborne commandoes all rolled in one.
The elite units merged into the new commando brigade are:
1. Meglan, which specializes in destroying enemy systems with the accent on armored units. Its members are equipped with intelligence technology for gathering data and its transmission in real time.
2. Duvdevan's tasks are to liquidate targeted terrorists and round up suspects. Its members operate under cover by blending into a hostile population in disguise. They are trained for single combat in the heart of enemy terrain.
3. Egoz commandos employ guerilla tactics borrowed from the books of terrorist organizations.
4. Rimon commandos also blend into a hostile population disguised as locals for the purpose of spotting and foiling terrorist operations in difficult and complex areas.
The commander of the new combined brigade is Col. David Zinni who defers to the 98th (Esh) Division.
Gen. Eisenkott has brought the four elite units together from the Paratroops, Golani and Givati brigades, among which they were formerly distributed. His action capped the reassessment of the IDF’s war doctrine which he found essential for dealing with the new volatile and constantly moving enemy.
The four elite units in combination offer a synergetic combination. They will train together in air, sea and tactics for missions to meet unorthodox intelligence demands. They will also be set apart from the conventional military by their special weapons, secret high-tech equipment, and separate guidelines and logistics.
The swiftness of ISIS’s climb to highest ranks of Israel’s foes caused Gen. Eisenkott to override the most recent innovation of his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz: the Depth Command. The Commando Brigade has made the Depth Command redundant.