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Israeli Response to Hostage-Taking

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 50 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 40-42,44
Eitan Meyr
Date Published
5 pages
This article describes Israel’s policies concerning hostage situations.
The HAMAS terrorist organization is about to adopt a new modus operandi -– kidnapping either Israeli soldiers or West-Bank Jewish settlers in order to bargain over them for the release of imprisoned terrorists held in Israeli jails. It seems that HAMAS has disregarded the fact that Israel has one of the toughest policies concerning hostage situations and no Israeli government has ever capitulated in such incidents. Since the birth of the state of Israel in 1948, the threat of illegal border crossings has been a pervasive fact of daily life. The trauma of losses suffered as a result of terrorism has always been felt on nearly all levels of society. Terrorism has threatened the country’s deterrent capability. As a result of all these factors, Israel has adopted a tough and uncompromising policy against terrorist in general and hostage-takers in particular. No concessions are made during a hostage situation; a rescue operation should be mounted as soon as all preparations are over and once the tactical situation permits it; and all incidents must be terminated close to their inception, preferably 24 hours. The implementation of a tough and strict policy against hostage-takers depends to a large extent on the ability to mount rescue operations even in the worst-case scenarios. This depends on having highly trained and equipped elite counterterrorist/hostage-rescue units. Two main units specialize in hostage-rescue operations. The YAMAM is the special counterterrorist/hostage-rescue unit of the Border-Guard Force, which is part of the Israeli National Police. Due to its task-oriented training, which is mostly dedicated to the art of rescuing hostages, this unit is now seen as Israel’s leading outfit in this field. The Sayeret Matkal is the elite special operations unit of the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli policy, which regards counter-force as the only acceptable option, has been implemented firmly throughout the last three decades.