Shayetet 13
Active 1948–Present
Country Israel
Branch Israeli Navy
Type Naval Commando
Garrison/HQ Atlit naval base
Nickname ?????? (HaShayetet, The Flotilla)
Engagements Six-Day WarWar of AttritionOperation Spring of YouthOccupation of South LebanonOperation MosesSecond IntifadaSantoriniNoah's Ark2006 Lebanon WarGaza WarFrancop AffairGaza flotilla raidIron Law
Notable commanders Ami AyalonZe'ev Almog


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Shayetet 13

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Shayetet 13 (Hebrew: ????? 13?, lit. Flotilla 13) is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. The unit is considered one of the primary Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces (along with Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag Unit). S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and boarding. The details of most Shayetet 13 missions are highly secretive, and the identities of operatives are kept classified. The unit is respected as among the best of the world’s special forces and is often compared to the US Navy SEALs and Britain's Special Boat Service.


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Shayetet 13 commandos filmed during the Tyre raid

S'13 is a veteran Israeli special forces unit. It was formed in 1948 by Yohai Ben-Nun with men drawn from the ranks of the Palyam, the naval branch of the Haganah. The need for such a dedicated unit was a matter of debate during the early years of the IDF, and the unit subsequently suffered size and budget restrictions. The existence of S'13 was only made public in 1960 and the general Israeli Navy insignia worn by members until then was replaced with the bat-winged insignia used at present.

The Six Day War
The outbreak of the 1967 Six Day War found the unit under trained. Several of the unit's missions during the war failed, the most noticeable one on June 5, 1967, when six operators were captured and taken as POW during a covert mission. The S'13 POWs were released six months later in January 1968.

The War of Attrition
In 1969 the unit successfully carried out the Green Island raid in cooperation with Sayeret Matkal, although three operatives were killed and ten more were severely wounded during the operation. On September 7, 1969, Shayetet 13 carried out operation Escort, raiding the Egyptian anchorage at Ras Sadat and destroying a pair of Egyptian P-183 torpedo-boats. Three operators were killed on they way back from the mission when one of their charges detonated. Escort, nevertheless, allowed the IDF to carry out operation Raviv, a highly successful 10-hour raid of Egypt's Red Sea coast.

During the 1970s the unit underwent a rebuild with more emphasis placed on sea-to-land incursions and on effective training. More issues rose with other IDF SF units, which at the time suggested that that S'13 should only provide the transportation to the target and assistance in crossing water obstacles, while leaving the surface warfare to the other IDF SF units.

Operation Spring of Youth
S'13 took part in Operation Spring of Youth of 1973, in which Israeli special forces raided Beirut and killed several members of Black September, the group which had carried out the Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes in the Munich 1972 Summer Olympics.

Lebanon War
From the early 1980s the unit became increasingly involved in the Lebanon conflict, demonstrating an excellent track record of dozens of successful operations each year, inflicting massive losses on Hezbollah, both in life and equipment, without Israeli casualties. Typical missions at the time were interdiction of terrorists' vessels, blowing up enemy headquarters and key facilities, conducting ambushes and planting explosives in terrorist routes. On September 8, 1997, the unit suffered a major blow during a raid in Lebanon: A team of 16 S'13 fighters stumbled upon an ambush of IEDs which had been laid by Hezbollah. At least 3 explosive devices were used against the team, killing 11. To this day, it is unknown whether or not the team fell into a random ambush or one that was set after the UAV, which accompanied the raid, broadcasted real time information about the fighters troop arrival and location through unsecured satellite channel due to human failure and hence provided Hezbollah with real time intelligence. Some suggested that the explosions that killed the 11 fighters were actually the team's own explosives, activated by accident. This is mostly considered an unlikely theory.

Operation Moses
During the mid-1980s, Shayetet 13 played an active part in operation Moses which brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. After the Mossad had established a diving resort on the Sudanese coast to serve a conduit for Jews fleeing Ethiopia, Shayetet 13 operatives would arrive on dinghies at night to ferry the refugees to an Israel Navy boat waiting offshore.

The al-Aqsa Intifada
During the al-Aqsa Intifada, S'13 soldiers took part in ground counter terror operations deep within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. S'13 performed hundreds of operations, including the arrest and/or killing of many militants of the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. It earned high acclaim due to the successful capture of three Palestinian ships which attempted to smuggle in weapons: Karine A, Santorini and Abu-Yusuf. The takeover of Karine A in particular was considered a highly difficult operation and it was conducted flawlessly. In 2002 and in 2003, S'13 won the Chief-of-Staff citation for successful counter terrorism operations.

The Second Lebanon War

During the 2006 Lebanon War, S'13 commandos successfully raided Tyre, killing 27 Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives with only several wounded.

Syria 2008
According to the Sunday Times, Shayetet 13 snipers shooting from a yacht were responsible for the assassination of Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman.

Operation Cast Lead
During Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from December 2008 to January 2009, Israeli Navy vessels landed Shayetet 13 commandos on the Gaza Strip coastline to strike Hamas targets on land.

Francop Affair

On 4 November 2009, the Antiguan-flagged vessel MV Francop, which had been carrying arms and munitions from Iran to Hezbollah, was successfully boarded and taken over by Shayetet 13 commandos. The commandos subsequently found the well-hidden weapons.

Gaza Flotilla Operation

On May 31, 2010, Shayetet 13 took part in Operation Sea Breeze or Operation Sky Winds against a flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. The commandos abseiled from helicopters and boarded from speedboats, and apprehended five ships with only passive resistance. Aboard the MV Mavi Marmara, the commandos were attacked by activists armed with knives and improvised weapons, and allegedly with firearms. One soldier was thrown to a lower deck, and another three had their guns seized, were carried below deck, and were temporarily held in a passenger hall. After non-lethal means of dispersal failed, the commandos opened fire with live ammunition, and seized control of the ship. Nine activists were killed, and several dozen were wounded. Seven commandos were also wounded, two of them seriously.International condemnation of the action followed. Subsequently, S'13 commandos seized the aid ship MV Rachel Corrie with no resistance.

Victoria Affair

On March 15, 2011, Shayetet 13 took part in "Operation Iron Law," conducted on the high seas against the Liberian-flagged, German-owned Victoria, a cargo vessel found to be carrying 50 tons of weapons which intelligence reports indicated had been consigned to Hamas. The Victoria was interdicted approximately 200 nautical miles from the Israeli coast, as it traveled from Turkey to El-Arish port in Egypt (other sources give the destination as Alexandria, Egypt). According to the Israeli Defense Force, Victoria loaded the cargo in the port of Latakia in Syria and sailed to Mersin, Turkey. The ship was intercepted by Israeli Navy Sa'ar 5-class corvettes and boarded by commandos from Shayetet 13, without resistance. The IDF has stated that the ship's crew was unaware it was carrying weapons, as they were concealed in 39 of the 100 containers on deck beneath bags of Syrian lentils and cotton. When seized by Shayetet 13, Victoria was redirected to the port of Ashdod. There, further inspections were conducted and the contraband was unloaded. Israel then announced it would release the ship and allow Victoria to continue to the Egyptian port of Alexandria.


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Shayetet 13 is divided into three specialized company-sized units (Hebrew: Palga):

  • Raids (Palgat Haposhtim): Special Reconnaissance and Direct Action missions on land, Maritime Counter-Terrorism and Hostage Rescues.
  • Underwater: Underwater Attacks and Sabotage, Hydrographic (Beach) Reconnaissance, and Beachhead Reconnaissance and Security.
  • Above water: Surface Attacks, Sea Transportation of units to and from target areas.


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The training of Shayetet 13 recruits lasts 20 months. The training phase consists of:

  • Six months of basic and advanced infantry training with other IDF units.
  • Three weeks of parachuting training at the IDF Parachuting School.
  • Three months of preparing phase. This phase consists of advanced infantry and weapons training, maritime warfare, operation of small vessels, long swims and marches, and demolition.
  • Dedicated phase. This phase of training lasts about a year and includes training in diving techniques, underwater demolition, sea-to-land incursions. This phase also includes three weeks of training at the IDF counter-terror school and instructions in maritime counter-terror operations. For instance, boarding of vessels, oil rigs and near-coast buildings.

Upon completion of their training the recruits are assigned to one of the three specialized units based on their capabilities and personal interests. Further training may include cross training with foreign special units such as the US Navy Seals.


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Israel Navy Maiale manned torpedo


  • AK-47
  • AK-74su
  • M4 commando
  • M203 grenade launcher
  • IMI Negev commando
  • Glock 19c pistol
  • TAR-21 Tavor

Other equipment
  • Limpet mine
  • Zodiac boats
  • Rhib boats
  • Sunnit fast attack craft


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In recent years, it was discovered that S'13 veterans had high occurrence of cancer, probably due to training in the polluted Kishon River. A commission for investigating the matter did not find statistical evidence that the diving in the Kishon caused the cancer. However, Minister of Defence, Shaul Mofaz, decided to compensate the divers' families in spite of the commissions' findings.

See also

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  • Atlit naval base
  • Commandos Marine
  • Kampfschwimmer
  • Special Boat Service
  • United States Navy SEALs
  • Special Service Group Navy

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