Israeli Prison Service Special Forces

Overview


The IPS has three SF units: Masada, Nachshon and Dror. In recent years the IPS SF units were considerably expanded and reorganized. In addition, an attempt has been made to address the IPS SF shortage of manpower and gear.

The primary reasons for the IPS SF reorganization were:

  • Increased number of violent riots within Israel's prisons.

  • Higher chances of guards being kidnapped by inmates.

  • In 2004-2006 the IPS assumed responsibility over the IDF three terrorist holding facilities (Megiddo, Ofer and Kt'izot), which contains thousands of terrorists.

  • In recent years, the IPS changed its attitude towards inmates to a more aggressive and proactive approach, including frequent surprise searches for concealed weapons, drugs and cell phones.

  • Following several high profile escapes from the Israeli Police custody in recent years, primarily during transit or courts visits, the IPS took over all prisoner’ transport in Israel.

 

Masada


In the past the IPS didn’t had a dedicated force which could handle complex hostage rescue situations and was required to rely on the IDF and Border Guard SF units when such situations occur. This resulted in a longer and less specialized response. To address this issue in 2003 the IPS formed Masada as a dedicated Takeover or hostages rescue scenarios in which prison's staff or visitors are held as hostages by inmates. The unit's secondary roles are riot control and conducting cell searches.

When Masada was formed it assumed some of the roles which were previously under Nachshon responsibility. The IPS goal was to create an elite unit, uniquely positioned within the Israeli SF vast community, and Masada was therefore allocated with considerable budget allowing it to be equipped with state of the art weaponry and gear. Masada was the first unit in the world to be operationally equipped with the Tavor and one of the first in Israel to procure the CornerShot 40, which is used to fire non-lethal 40mm rounds. The unit also places a special focus on non-lethal weapons.

One of Masada goals is to become Israel's leading unit in the deployment of non-lethal weapons and it was therefore equipped with advanced and unique non-lethal gear, some of it never used before in Israel, from various tear gas and acoustics devices to paintball guns firing capacitating rounds. Occasionally, Masada also instructs and trains other Israeli and foreign SF units on the usage of such weapons.

The unit's non-lethal specialty led to an expansion of its original missions. Today, Masada operates outside the IPS correctional facilities and is involved both covertly and overtly in riots control in the Territories. Additionally, the unit also took part in the Territories Disengagement Plan in 2005 as an emergency response force.

Masada operators can also operate in civilian locations such as building apartments within Israel, if these locations are populated by or taken over by inmates, such as prisoners on vacation or prisoners who escaped from jail. In addition, Masada operators are the only IPS personnel allowed to carry firearms within the IPS prisons, while other IPS personnel are limited to non-lethal gear such as sticks and shields.

Due to OPSEC and psychological warfare considerations as well as for unit's morale, the IPS maintains a clandestine image to the unit. Masada operators' identities are classified and they operate exclusively with masked faces. This elite unit image also assists the IPS in attracting high quality manpower, a problem it has encountered in the past with Nachshon.

All Masada operators are graduates of the IDF combat units, many of whom with SF background. The unit's training lasts six months and consists primarily of CQB, hostage rescue techniques and a special focus on Krav Maga and other non-lethal techniques.

Masada maintains a constant 24/7 alert with a rapid response time to any correctional facility in Israel. While on duty, the unit's teams are either training or operating in prisons throughout Israel.

 

Nachshon


Overview

Up until the creation of Masada in 2003, Nachshon was the IPS primary quick response team. However, today the unit primarily focuses on inmates' transportation.

Same as the YAMAM, Nachshon was formed in 1974, following the transfer of homeland security responsibilities from the IDF to the civilian security organizations. The unit was originally known as Operational Security ("Avthaha Miv'tzayit - ABM", in Hebrew) and later in 1993 changed its name to Nachshon.

The unit's primary mission is escorting prisoners between the holding facilities of the Israeli Police, IPS, IDF and the General Israeli Security Service to locations such as courts, vacation and hospitals, using both overt and covert vehicles. The unit also handles the transportation of prisoners from the IPS and General Israeli Security Service facilities to IDF military courts throughout Israel and in the Territories. The unit's secondary roles are assisting Masada in large scale prison riots control as well as handle a variety of high risk duties such as:

  • State witness protection

  • Airborne escort of prisoners out of and into Israel

  • VIP protection for high-ranking IPS officers and their families

  • Securing IPS official events

  • Instructing IPS personnel in anti riots techniques

  • Assisting Masada and Dror in prisons searches in order to detect concealed weapons, drugs, cell phones and other forbidden items.

  • In case of high risk prisoners, Nachshon operators will also provide security within the court rather then leave this mission to the Israeli Police or Court Guard.

Nachshon old silver colored insignia, when it was still known as ABM.

Deployment

Nachshon is a relatively large unit, which operates throughout Israel on a daily basis conducting dozens of prisoners’ escorts. Each operator is on a constant 24/7 alert and can be summoned at any time using the issued pager and cell phone. In addition, each operator carries most of his personnel gear in his car, so the unit can deploy anywhere in Israel with a relatively large force in a short response time.

In recent years the unit had expanded its capabilities and added a canine team and a motorbikes team, which can provide even faster and specialized response.

Nachshon is also one of handful Israeli SF units which deploys female operators.

Training

Nachshon training lasts five months consisting of:

  • CQB

  • Riot control

  • Prisoners escort and addressing every possible prisoners transportation break scenario

  • Special focus on non-lethal weapons and Krav Maga

  • Lectures on the penal system, inmates' way of thinking and psychological warfare, in order to minimize the use of deadly force whenever possible

  • Training exercises in every prison in Israel

 

Dror


Dror is the IPS SF anti drugs unit formed in 1994 in order to fight drugs usage and distribution within IPS correctional facilities. The unit operates throughout Israel, inside and outside the prisons. Unlike Masada and Nachshon, which are more combat oriented units, Dror is a more intelligence oriented unit. In addition, Dror is by far the smallest unit out of the three.

Dror's key roles are:

  • Conduct drugs searches in prisons

  • Find smuggling routes into jails and shut them down

  • Observing inmates while they are out of the prison for vacations or during a medical checkup. In such cases the unit conducts undercover surveillance on the prisoners, while armed escort (if necessary) is provided by Nachshon.

  • Conduct drugs related intelligence gathering operations inside and outside prisons.

In order to increase their effectiveness, Dror operators possess some of the legal capacities of the police officers. They are allowed to track down, detain, arrest and conduct searches not only on prisoners but also on civilians suspected in assisting prisoners to smuggle drugs into prisons.

Dror is on constant alert and is often called upon to assist other IPS units in counter narcotics deployment. The unit also utilizes drugs sniffing dogs in searches. The unit operates in close cooperation with IPS and Israeli Police intelligence officers and utilizes their leads to conducts searches, arrests and preemptive operations.

The unit chooses its operators from within the IPS prison guards' cadre and also accepts woman operators, which are highly useful for undercover operations. Dror is therefore one of handful Israeli SF units which deploys female operators. New recruits undergo various courses including intelligence gathering and canine.

Unfortunately, much like Nachshon, Dror is under-staffed and under-equipped. In fact, the unit's budget issues lead to its partial funding by the Israeli Anti Drug Authority (ADA).

Israeli Prison Service Special Forces Guide