The Yamam (Hebrew: ימ”מ), is the acronym for Special Police Unit (יחידת משטרה מיוחדת, Yeidat Mishtara Meyuedet), Israel’s elite civilian counter-terrorism unit. The Yamam has a world-wide reputation as a professional and successful paramilitary force and it 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.
Name and Organization
Yamam stands for Special Police Unit. In Israel it is also called Unit for Counter-Terror Warfare (היחידה ללוחמה בטרור). The Yamam answers to the Israel Border Police central command and belongs to the civilian Israel Police forces rather than the military. Its operators and officers are professional policemen on payroll, usually with combat experience from their military service within the Israel Defense Forces.
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.).
The Yamam’s primary duties are:
- Hostage rescue.
- Offensive or preemptive operations.
- SWAT duties – handling dangerous criminals.
- Undercover police operations.
- VIP security.
Most of the Yamam’s activity is classified, and published Yamam operations are often credited to other units. Nevertheless, the Yamam enjoys a high reputation among SF professionals and the Israeli public.
The Yamam was established after the Ma’alot massacre, where a failed operation by military special forces units ended with 21 children 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. In late 1974, the Yamam was established and has since fallen under the direct jurisdiction of the Israel Border Police — the combat arm of the Israel Police.
Operational record 1974 – September 2000
The Yamam has carried out many paramilitary operations. Some of the missions known to the public prior to the al-Aqsa Intifada are listed below:
- 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”. The Yamam struck, killing all three targets, but not managing to prevent three Israeli passengers from being killed.
- On March 3, 2000, the Yamam captured an armed group hidden in the Israeli-Arab town of Taibe 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. (password-restricted link)
Operational record during the al-Aqsa Intifada (since October 2000)
The Yamam has carried out many paramilitary operations during the Al-Aqsa Intifada within the last few years. The vast majority of them are classified. Some of the most notable are listed below:
- April 7, 2002: A cooperation of the Shabak, Yamam and IDF leads to the capture of Case Aduwan, a Hamas member who planned the Passover massacre in Netanya. Aduwan fortified himself in a house along with four armed members. During the raid, Yamam snipers killed two and IDF forces located and safely detonated a car bomb meant to be sent into an Israeli city. After 12 hours of heavy fire exchanges, an armoured IDF Caterpillar D9 demolished the house. Aduwan’s body was found under the rubble.
- Yamam and Sayeret Matkal rescued Israeli cab driver Eliyahu Goral, after he was kidnapped by Palestinian militants.
- June 23, 2003: Yamam forces killed Hamas’ head in Hebron, Abbedullah Qawasameh.
- December 3, 2003: Yamam forces foiled an attempted massacre in Yokne’am school by Palestinians.
- Yamam forces killed Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian who was responsible for the deaths of five Israeli in Kibbutz Metzer, including a mother and her two young children.
- Yamam forces, together with IDF elite units, arrested 12 members of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which used the shelter of a mental institute in Bethlehem to prepare a huge suicide bombing against Israel during Passover.
- July 25, 2004: Yamam forces kill 6 Tanzim members in Tulkarm, including the local head and a linkman to Hizbullah.
- November 21, 2004: Three Fatah militants were killed in a gunfight with the Yamam. One of the dead was Mohammed Rassan Sheikh, a senior Fatah militant who hid in Arafat’s compound for a long time. (Haaretz)