Squad That Strikes from the Shadows

Daily Mail (London), October 19, 2000 | Go to article overview

Squad That Strikes from the Shadows


Byline: NICK CRAVEN

OFFICIALLY, the Israeli government was saying little about the predawn strike deep into the heart of hostile Palestinian territory yesterday.

But there was little doubt that the mission into the enclaves of Ramallah, and possibly Nablus too, were jointly staged by the internal security service the Shin Bet and a shadowy SAS-style Israeli army unit known as the Duvdevan.

In Hebrew, the word means the 'cherry' from the top of the tree - a reference to the elite's ability to mount surgical strikes picking only the terrorists they want.

The soldiers of Israel's most secret army battalion learn how to speak Arabic, apply stage makeup and often drill in a movie-set style West Bank village made from plywood.

They are a feared unit whose main mission is to stalk and snatch Palestinians wanted for violence against the state of Israel.

Created nearly ten years ago during the Palestinian intifada against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the unit has been blamed for killing as many as 160 Palestinians in undercover ambushes.

A typical team consists of eight soldiers.

An Israeli journalist who was recently allowed to watch the unit training described the members as serious, level-headed people who survive a selection process that weeds out 99 per cent of applicants.

He said: 'They don't hate Arabs.

They try hard to understand them.

But they are dealing with terrorists and are determined to catch them.'

Rare film footage recently showed a Duvdevan training exercise.

The soldiers changed from their olive uniforms into jeans, shirts and sneakers and had fake beard stubble applied to their faces by a makeup artist.

In the exercise, Palestinians stoned an Israeli army jeep and burned a tyre in the village street.

Suddenly, two of the protesters jumped the ringleader of the group, locked him in a choke hold, threw him into a white Mercedes and sped away - waving their guns in the car window to keep the crowd away.

Duvdevan soldiers are trained for quick surprise raids, not the long-term undercover assignments which are the preserve of the domestic Shin Bet or its legendary and long-reaching overseas arm, the Mossad. …

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