IDF’s Special Forces Revamp to Face Hezbollah


By Yaakov Lappin

IDF special forces during a training exercise IDF Spokesperson Unit (Provided)

At the end of November, the Israeli military’s Commando Brigade held a secretive war exercise, which sheds light on how Israel is preparing new capabilities against Hezbollah and Hamas.

Just a short time before Israel launched an operation to expose and destroy Hezbollah cross-border tunnels, the three-year-old Commando Brigade held a 10-day war exercise, drilling combat against Hezbollah in Lebanon and against Hamas in Gaza.

The brigade’s special forces units — Egoz, Maglan and Duvdevan — worked with the Israel Air Force practicing airlifts and close air support, and moving quickly between combat arenas, and between open areas and urban warfare settings.

The exercise is the latest sign of a new ground forces doctrine taking hold in the Israel Defense Forces. This doctrine will be highly influential on how Israel would take on Hezbollah in any future war.

Earlier this year, the IDF divided its ground forces into three new categories. One of those categories, dubbed Yeshuron, is made up of the Commando Brigade and the Paratrooper Brigade.

The IDF defines the role of this category forces in an important way. Yeshuron forces are “to deliver a strong punch to the enemy from multiple directions,” according to a senior officer who spoke at a media briefing earlier this year.

That means they will travel ahead of, and often in isolation from, the rest of the infantry and armored brigades during any ground offensive into enemy territory.

They will be equipped with their own arsenal of high-tech weaponry and can be expected to receive missions to launch rapid raids against the most sensitive, strategic enemy targets.

As Lt. Col. Yaron Simsolo, commander of the battalion that trains special forces, told JNS in October, “We talk a lot about raids, about going in and out. This is the main battle aspect that we teach them. What is the meaning of raids, how to strike the enemy and move back. Lots of small victories, in the end, are one big victory.”

Special forces, then, would have a critical role to play in any Israeli future victory against Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s highly trained and war-experienced personnel, back from the Syrian battlefields, are experts in asymmetrical urban warfare, using underground tunnels, working their way through civilian areas and having a host of deadly weapons to challenge their enemy.

The special forces could be sent into to those areas that air power would find difficult to reach.

Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot visited the forces at the end of November, speaking with commanders and soldiers about the changes experienced by the Command Brigade since it was founded in 2015.

Eizenkot also met with the Commando Brigade’s commanding officer, Col. Kobi Heller, who stated that “the brigade, which was only formed three years ago, is the new operational device in the IDF’s toolbox, capable of providing a solution for any challenge or threat.”

Heller said “this exercise proves that the brigade is prepared to deal with any scenario required of it, and that it is ready to face any enemy in any area.”

The Commando Brigade is one aspect of something that military chiefs in Israel have identified as being crucial for any future victory against Hezbollah — and that is a rapid, lethal ground maneuver against what the military describes as “the enemy’s centers of gravity.”

Yaakov Lappin is a writer for


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