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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

For long-range ops, IDF creates new Special Forces Command

Filed under: Israel Defense Forces (IDF)
Publication: Dore Gold Articles


The Israel Defense Forces is establishing a new “Depth Corps Force” to coordinate and execute multidisciplinary missions far from Israel’s borders, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz announced on Thursday.

“The primary task of the Corps will be to extend joint IDF operations into the strategic depth,” the army said in a statement.

Defense News reported that the establishment of the unified Special Forces command was “one of several organizational and conceptual upgrades under review in response to escalating threats and instability anticipated in a rapidly changing region.”

Defense News further reported that the idea is to “merge Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s premier general staff reconnaissance unit; Israel Navy (Flotilla 13 Naval Commando Unit); the Air Force’s Shaldag target designation unit and 669 airborne search and rescue force into a single command structure subordinate to the IDF chief of general staff.”

The new force, led by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Shai Avital, will report directly to Gantz. Modeled on the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the Depth Corps will integrate elite commando units into a single special operational command to carry out missions outside of Israel’s immediate circle.

Avital previously served as the commander of the Northern Corps and commanded the elite Sayeret Matkal during the first Lebanon War in 1982. In his new role as Depth Corps Force commander, Avital will command a conglomerate unit responsible for counterterror, anti-smuggling and anti-proliferation operations at long range.

Gantz has been speaking for some time about establishing a Depth Corps Force to be in charge of operations at “longer ranges.” Thus, for example, this corps will be responsible for operations connected with arms smuggling from Lebanon to Gaza.

The Depth Corps Force will comprise some 100 soldiers and officers. The army does not intend for this force to deal with every long-range mission, but it will be responsible for the most special and complex missions.

Units forming the new Depth Corps Force will not be permanently assigned to this command on a daily basis, but will come together when necessary missions arise, and where it will have a special advantage. Therefore, Depth Corps Force will not be responsible for “force construction,” but only for carrying out special operations. The IDF points out that each mission will be examined individually and determined whether it falls under the purview of the new command.

The establishment of the new Depth Corps Force comes after long staff work and research, carried out previously by, amongt others, current Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nechushtan, Director of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, who until a few months ago was GOC Northern Command. In 1982, the army decided to establish a Depth Corps Force but the idea was quickly removed from the agenda.