LOTAR Eilat

Overview


LOTAR Eilat is an IDF reserve SF unit, which specializes in CT and hostage rescue in and around the city of Eilat. The unit celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014.

As Israel’s southernmost city as well as Israel's primary resort city, Eilat is prone and vulnerable to terror attacks due to:

  • Multiple hotels and tourist attractions are among the many targets in the city

  • Close proximity to the Israeli-Jordanian and the Israeli-Egyptian borders

  • Slow response time due to the distance from any IDF or a Law Enforcement CT unit base

Due to Eilat uniqueness and vulnerabilities, shortly after the Maalot Massacre in 1974 the IDF formed LOTAR Eilat. As there was no need to establish a regular full-time unit to cover a specific city, the unit was established as a reserve unit, similar to Alpinistim and the IAF Airplane Security Unit.

Originally, the unit was formed as an Engagement Unit, however, the mid 1990’s, following its successful track record, it was promoted to a Takeover Unit status.

Today, LOTAR Eilat is the only IDF unit which specializes in hostage’s rescue, while for all other IDF SF capable units, including the IDF Takeover units, CT and hostage rescue are a secondary capability. LOTAR Eilat is also among the IDF few CT dedicated units. The unit therefore incorporates several rare uniqueness: reserve SF unit, Takeover Unit, dedicated CT unit and area-specific unit.

Due to its specialization, dedicated training and high-end gear, the unit is considered as one of the most experienced and the capable hostage rescue units in the entire Israeli SF community, including both Law Enforcement and military units, and is arguably second only to YAMAM in this area.

Deployment


During the first Intifada LOTAR Eilat worked closely with Shimshon in the Gaza Strip area, and they have carried out many successful overt and covert joint operations.

Plain cloths LOTAR Eilat team posing prior to undercover deployment in the Territories, early 1990's.

In August 1989 the unit was involved in its first hostage rescue operation. A Jordanian soldier crossed the Israeli-Jordanian border, entered Kibbutz Lotan and kidnapped a female hostage. A LOTAR Eilat team responded to the incident, killed the Jordanian soldier using a sniper and freed the hostage unarmed.

In September 1995, an Iranian airliner was kidnapped by an emotionally disturbed individual and landed at the Uvda AFB. The unit successfully handled the incident and after negotiations the kidnaper had surrendered himself. The unit’s successful resolution of the Iranian airliner incident was the IDF trigger the promote the unit to a Takeover Unit status, resulting in considerably higher resources.

LOTAR Eilat operators on board the Iranian airliner. Left operator armed with an Uzi.

In November 2000 a Russian hijacker armed with a fake bomb took over a Dagestan Airlines plane on route to Moscow, along with its 50 passengers. The airliner landed in the Uvda AFB and eventually the kidnaper had surrendered himself. The Dagestan incident was also handled by YAMAM.

LOTAR Eilat and YAMAM vehicles (left) securing the Dagestan Airliner after the kidnapper had surrendered himself.

Personnel


The unit's operators are reservists who live in Eilat or in the nearby Kibbutzim. All operators are graduates of the IDF combat units, and many are SF veterans. Some of the unit's operators had already undergone CT training during their IDF mandatory service. However, most of the new recruits undergo a CT course only after being recruited to the unit. The CT course is then followed by additional inner-unit training.

Unlike other IDF SF units, whose operators serve for only three years mandatory service, LOTAR Eilat operators serve for many years, much like in the Israeli Law Enforcement SF units, which dramatically contributes to the unit’s experience and expertise.

The unit is especially renowned for its snipers, which are considered among the finest in the Israeli SF community. In order to become a sniper in LOTAR Eilat, one must first serve few years as an entry team operator and only then, after demonstrating his skills, can apply for a sniper position.

Most of the unit’s operators are on a constant 24/7 alert and can be summoned at any time. As such, each operator carries most of his personnel gear in his car, allowing the unit a very short response time.

Training


While a reserve unit, the unit's operators train extensively on a nearly weekly basis. Each month the operators meet for a few days training sessions and every six months the unit conducts a major training exercise at the IDF Counter Terror School, which covers multiple hostage rescue scenarios. A key training focus is placed on storming large hotels and resorts.

The unit also conducts frequent joint training with other Takeover Units in order to share techniques and equipment. Much of these training are conducted with YAMAM as the two units are likely to operate together in a large-scale hostage rescue operation. As Eilat has an international harbor within the city limits, the unit also conducts joint training with Shayetet 13 so it can provide rapid and effective response in maritime scenarios.

LOTAR Eilat Guide