Nachshon Vaxman Rescue - October 14, 1994

Sergeant Nachshon Vaxman was a soldier in the Golani infantry Brigade. In October 9, 1994, Nachshon hitchhiked on his vacation and got into a car with Palestinian terrorists that were disguised as ultra orthodox Jews. The terrorists kidnapped Vaxman and took him to the Bir Nabbalha village near the city of Ramala in the Territories.

Few days later, in October 12, the terrorists distributed a ransom videotape, containing footage of the hostage, and demanded to free dozens of terrorists serving time in Israeli jails. The terrorists ultimatum was to release the prisoners until October 14, 21:00 or they will execute the hostage.

Screen shot from the ransom tape. Front the hostage Vaxman in uniforms. Back - the terrorist holding the soldier's CAR15 and ID card.

The SHABACH soon found out the hostage's whereabouts, and Unit YAMAM arrived to the scene first and was ready to make the raid. But since the building was outside the Israeli borders, the IDF had the jurisdiction on which unit would carry out the hostage rescue raid.

Both YAMAM and Sayeret MATKAL presented their raid plans to the IDF High Command in order to decide which one has the better plan, and will therefore execute the raid. Unit YAMAM plan was better then Sayeret MATKAL one, but with the IDF Chief of General Staff being the former Sayeret MATKAL CO - Ehoud Barak - YAMAM didn't had a chance in receiving the mission.

Moreover, AMAM CO at the time, David Zur (the unit's CO 1992-1995) was in a visit at U.S. FBI HRT, and his XO was a non charismatic person that didn't have what it takes to put pressure on high ranking political officials. So YAMAM was ordered to pull back and Sayeret MATKAL to move in.

Eventually, Sayeret MATKAL was chosen as the primary Takeover unit in charge on carrying out the hostage rescue operation, with Duvdevan and few members from the IDF Counter Terror School acting as an Engagement unit. Oketz and YACHSAP were also called in as Assisting units.

The house in the Bir Nabbalha village were the rescue attempt took place.

The raid itself took place in October 14 at 20:00 just one hour before the end of the terrorists ultimatum. At the beginning of the raid, things went well and the entry team, composed of Sayeret MATKAL, Oketz and YACHSAP personnel, managed to reach the external door undetected.

But then the problems began, the hostage Vaxman and three terrorists were in a small inner room beyond a solid steal door. The explosive charge that was supposed to breech the door, was too small and the entry team needed to quickly make and detonate another charge, thus completely loosing the surprise element.

The second charge blew the door in, the dogs were released and stormed in, followed by the entry team operatives, but it was already too late. In the few minutes delay, one terrorist executed the hostage with several shots to the head and the two others got in positions preparing to open fire on the entry team.

The first Sayeret MATKAL operator who came in the door, Captain Nir Poraz, was immediately shot several times and killed on the spot. The second operator, also an officer, was shot twice but was still able to take out one terrorist. The rest of the team killed the two other terrorists.

In the end, all three terrorists were killed, but one Sayeret MATKAL officer and the hostage were dead as well.

The failed rescue is largely a result of the insufficient charge designed to breech the door, behind which was the hostage. Moreover, during the preparation for the assault, a demolition expert from YAMAM, which was present on the scene, told Sayeret MATKAL operators that the charge they made was too small. However, Sayeret MATKAL ignored YAMAM member's advice.

Operations Guide