Rimon (1970-1972)

Background


Following the 1967 Six Day War, Israel gained control over the Gaza Strip as well as Judah and Samaria (later to be collectively known as the Territories). The Gaza Strip was a heavily populated area, containing large refugee camps and the home for several terror organizations. There were hundreds of heavily armed and well trained terrorists in the Gaza Strip, who moved around freely and carried weapons overtly . The terrorists often attacked IDF personnel and vehicles as well as Israeli civilians and fellow Palestinians which were suspected of collaboration with the Israeli regime.

By 1970 the Gaza Strip was on a verge of chaos. Since Israel gained control over the area in 1967, more then 1,000 terror attacks originated from the area resulting in dozens of Israeli casualties. The IDF attempted to contain the situation by sending conventional infantry units to the area. However, in this type of guerrilla warfare within a civilian populated area, the enemies are unclear and often enjoy the passive or active support of the local civilians. The infantry units were not trained to handle this kind of such situation and failed in stopping the terror attacks.

Formation


Following the conventional units' failed activity in the Gaza Strip, in late 1970, Arik Sharon, then the IDF Southern Command CO, decided it was time to use more sophisticated SF tactics and ordered the creation of a new unit - Rimon.

The formation of Rimon was a landmark in Israeli SF history, as it was the first dedicated CT unit for the Territories as well as the first Israeli SF unit to utilize undercover tactics on a large scale. The unit was in fact the IDF first Mistaravim type unit ("Mistaravim" is the Hebrew term, which means disguising as an Arab).

In many ways, Rimon took after the 1940's PALMACH Arabic Platoon. However, while the PALMACH Arabic Platoon specialized in intelligence gathering, Rimon was designed as a direct action CT unit. The unit mandate was to deploy counter guerrilla warfare tactics against the terror, hence, fighting terror with terror.

The new unit manpower was composed mostly of Shaked personnel (the IDF Southern Command LRRP unit at the time) as well as operators from the Tzanhanim  infantry brigade. Meir Dagan, then a young IDF Captain and later to become an IDF General and the head of the Mossad, was appointed as the unit's CO. Dagan proved to be an excellent choice, and invented many of the renown Israeli SF undercover CT tactics, some of which are still used today.

Unlike the modern day undercover Mistaravim units, such as the IDF Duvdevan and the MAGAV YAMAS units, Rimon did not had time for structured linguistic training in Arabic. Instead, the unit used Arabs, Bedouin and Druze as its points man. Some of these men were IDF soldiers and an integral part of the unit, other were convicted felons, which agree to cooperate in exchange for a shorter sentence. The unit also used Palestinian terrorists as its point men, most of then escaped Jordan, following the Black September incident in 1970.

Operational Deployment


The turning point in the IDF operations in the Gaza Strip occurred few months after the unit's formation. In January 1971, Palestinian terrorists threw a grenade at the car of an Israeli family which was on Saturday trip in the area. As a result of the attack the family's two children were killed and their mother was badly injured. The IDF then decided to crash down the resistance in the Gaza Strip, with Rimon spearheading its SF efforts.

The unit began intense undercover deployment in the Gaza Strip, conducting numerous CT raids while transporting in covert civilian vehicles and dressed as Arabs. The unit's operators were disguised as fisherman, taxi drivers and even as woman, a very effective undercover tactic since woman are less suspicious and their traditional Arab clothing allow for easy concealment of weapons less compact then handguns (e.g. Uzi SMG).

Often, the units operators were disguised as terrorists, wearing typical clothing and carrying AK47, and pretended to be Palestinian terrorists who escaped from a remote part of Gaza Strip, Lebanon or Jordan. They would then approach local Palestinians and asked them to arrange a meeting with the local terrorists. Since the unit's point man was often an actual terrorist, this tactic worked well - the unit's operators would have met with the terrorists and take them out.

The unit's undercover operations were often referred to as "Zikiot (Chameleon in Hebrew)" and accordingly the unit itself was sometimes refer to Unit Zikiot. The term Zikiot become a trademark in IDF terminology and was used again to describe undercover missions during the Palestinian uprising in the Territories in the late 1980's - early 1990's (the First Intifada).

In mid 1972 Rimon achieved its objectives and was disbanded. The unit proved to be amazingly efficient and in less then 18 months (early 1971 - mid 1972) managed to hunt down, kill and capture most of the terrorists in the Gaza Strip, crashing down the Palestinian resistance in the area.

Other then the direct result of the unit's undercover tactics, the unit's activity also had a tremendous psychological effect on the terrorists by causing them confusion and fear. Some of the unit's attacks were even associated to rival terrorists organizations, thus adding even more confusion.

Following Rimon and other IDF units activity in the area, the Gaza Strip became a relatively quiet area for two decades until the eruption of the first Intifada in the late 1980's.

While the unit existed less then two years, its impact on the IDF was considerable, and in the late 1980's, when the Intifada began, Rimon was the inspiration for the creation of new Mistaravim units, which later employ similar tactics to those invented by Rimon.

Over the years, the unit gained infamous reputation as an assassinations unit. Many of the terrorists killed by the unit were reported to be executed, some while in custody of the unit. Some of the operators also reported severe battle stress from the numerous assassinations missions they had carried out.

In 1997 the issue reached headlines news when a Daniel Okev, a former officer in Rimon tried to kill two British hitchhikers. While driving to the city of Eilat, Okev pulled over the car, ordered the two tourists out and shot then in the head without a reason. One of the tourists was killed on the spot; another was critically injured but later recovered. Later in his trial, Okev claimed that the killing was the result of his deep battle stress from Rimon days, and Meir Dagan, the unit's CO, was even call to testify. Eventfully, Okev was sentenced to 20 years a prison, a reduced sentenced due to his post traumatic state of mind at the time of the incident.

Disbanded Units Guide