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Unit 212, Sayeret Maglan is an elite IDF commando unit whose primary mission is to eliminate high value targets deep behind enemy lines. The word Maglan translates to “Ibis”, which is a bird that is known for adapting to any situation. The unit lives up to its name. It is known for finding creative and innovative ways to accomplish its missions. Maglan specializes in reconnaissance, anti-tank warfare, advanced technologies and other classified weaponry.
The IDF keeps Maglan’s missions a secret and reveals very little information about the operations in which it participates. What is known is -- no target is out of its reach. They will go where no one else would dare, they will adapt to any situation and that they are the reason why Israel’s enemies sleep with a night light on at night.
Maglan was originally established in 1986 as an elite anti tank unit in light of lessons learned from the Yom Kipur War. The IDF realized that they needed a way to combat Syria’s tanks after they nearly overran Israel’s defenses in the Golan heights the first few days of the war. During its first few years, Maglan was rumored to be a unit composed of outcast soldiers, dropped from other special forces units due to insubordination. The regular units in the IDF considered them as soldiers with no boundaries. It was only revealed later that this was untrue, that it was just a part of their cover.
Initially, Maglan was comprised of two teams – one including young and promising recruits, the other made up of experienced soldiers from other special forces units, including the Nahal reconnaissance unit, the paratroopers reconnaissance unit and commanders from the prestigious Sayeret Shaldag.
During their first few years of operations, they were trained to use advanced anti tank missiles in preparation for the next confrontation with Syria’s tanks, as well as to be the IDF’s primary attack force against Iraq. In the event of war, their primary mission would be to eliminate Iraq’s arsenal of scud missiles. As the threat of an Syrian and Iraqi attack receded over the years, they redefined the unit’s goals.Maglan began to specialize in reconnaissance and other types of warfare. They were specially trained to use top secret weapons and classified technologies. By 2006, the unit became one of the IDFs most elite units, tasked with some of the most difficult, high-risk and dangerous missions.
Recruits train intensively for a year and a half in one of the most difficult training programs in the IDF. After 6 months of basic they continue advanced training within the Paratroopers Brigade, including a parachuting course. The soldiers then must complete a 100 km march to Maglan’s base before starting their unit-specific training course. Advanced training includes navigation, camouflage, observation, specialized warfare, special weapons training and special operational devices. Conditioning is emphasized as they are required to carry equipment weighing about 70% of their body mass over several dozen Kilometers. About one-third of the candidates drop out due to the harsh nature of the program. In addition, each recruit goes through the IDF’s commanders course.
Maglan was unknown to the general public until the Second Lebanon War. On July 12th 2006 the Hezbollah terrorist organization carried out a cross border ambush killing 3 soldiers and abducting 2 others. The IDF sent in a tank to rescue the kidnapped soldiers but it ran over a landmine, killing the 5 member crew. After launching a massive barrage of rockets into Israel, Hezbollah demanded that Israel trade captured terrorists for the soldiers. Israel refused and initiated an air campaign against the terror organization. A few days later they invaded Southern Lebanon.
During the war Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets into northern Israel, targeting civilians. Intelligence suggested that many of the rockets were being launched from coastal areas. Senior Maglan officers planned a clandestine operation behind Hezbollah lines to destroy rocket launchers along the southern Lebanon coast. The operation was dubbed “Operation Beach Boys”. Dozens of Maglan soldiers were airlifted into South Lebanon by helicopter. After hiding from a passing Hezbollah squad, the soldiers began calling in airstrikes against Hezbollah rocket launchers, as well as headquarters, trucks, ammunition dumps, and other military infrastructure. They also fired multiple camera guided anti tank missiles destroying high value Hezbollah targets. A total of 150 Hezbollah targets, including 40 rocket launchers, were destroyed. The operation was widely considered a success, and was estimated to have reduced Hezbollah rocket fire by 40%.
In 2014 Maglan participated in “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza. The goals of the operation were: to destroy Hamas’s cross-border tunnels to be used to infiltrate and kidnap Israeli citizens, and to weaken Hamas’s rocket launch capabilities after daily firings into Israel. The Israeli Air Force‘s efforts in destroying the rocket launchers was complicated by Hamas’s use of human shields protecting their launch sites, which were located within highly populated areas as well as hospitals, mosques and UN buildings. Hamas counted on Israel’s reluctance to strike targets embedded amongst civilians.
Maglan was tasked with eliminating these targets in order to prevent collateral damage. The unit succeeded in destroying multiple rocket launchers , killing over 50 Hamas terrorists, as well as preventing Hamas ambushes targeted at Israeli ground forces. However, all of this came at a price. 3 Maglan members were killed and many others were injured by an explosion from a booby trapped house on the 14th day of the war. The unit was awarded the Chief of Staffs Citation for its activities in the war. Their fearless execution of their mission was one of the main reasons the IDF’s ground offence was a success.
Today, Maglan regularly carries out high-risk top secret operations in and around Israel’s hostile borders. They are on the front lines and given the most dangerous missions in order to keep Israel and its citizens safe. When they are not preparing for their next operation they are training with new and innovative technology for the next confrontation with Israel’s enemies. Adaptable, like its namesake, the Ibis, Maglan will continue to evolve as Israel’s strategic situation continues to change.