YAMAS

Overview


Formed in 1989, YAMAS (Hebrew acronym for "Mistaravim Unit") is the collective name for several MAGAV undercover CT units, which are the Israeli Border Guard (MAGAV) equivalent to the IDF Duvdevan.

There are three YAMAS units, each operating in its own area of responsibility: YAMAS Judah and Samaria, YAMAS South and YAMAS Jerusalem.

YAMAS South and YAMS Judah and Samaria celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2015, while YAMAS Jerusalem celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2017.

All three units have similar training, equipment and tactics, but are completely independent without a shared command. The reason behind the creation of three separated units, with each specializing in a specific area, was due to each region's unique Arabic dialect, customs, traditions and clans which the undercover operative must be fully familiar with in order to pass on as native and perfectly blend in.

As counter terror units, YAMAS units aren't design for long-term undercover infiltration, but rather for short-term, hit and run raids. The units are paramilitary in nature, more resembling IDF SF units rather than Law Enforcement units. Moreover, when they were first formed, the units were even financed by the IDF, up until 1991 when MAGAV took over.

The units were considered classified until August 1992, when the YAMAS Judah and Samaria CO, Eli Avram, was killed during a deployment.

While YAMAS tactics are similar to the ones used by the IDF Duvdevan, there are several key differences:

  • Most operators in Duvdevan are Jewish, speaking Arabic as second language. In YAMAS some operators are Israeli minorities (mostly Druses), whose Arabic is their native mother tongue.

  • Most operators in Duvdevan are mandatory service soldiers. In YAMAS many operators are IDF veterans, which joined the units after finishing their IDF mandatory service and serve for many years in YAMAS. Over time this create an advantage for undercover work as the operators gain experience in a specific region. Often, after few years, when the operators faces become all too familiar to the local, they will alternate roles within the units such as snipers, or transferred to a different YAMAS unit.

 

History


In 1987, when the Intifada - the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli regime in the Territories - broke out, the IDF created two new dedicated undercover units - Duvdevan and Shimshon - with primary objectives to kill or capture terrorists.

The success of IDF units gave rise to other undercover forces and in 1989 MAGAV created its own two undercover units: YAMAS Gaza and YAMAS Judah and Samaria. In 1992, when the Intifada extended into the Jerusalem, MAGAV formed YAMAS Jerusalem.

In 1994, following the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Oslo Norway, the Gaza Strip became a Palestinian Territory, in which the Israeli security forces weren't allowed to regularly operate in. As a result, the IDF disbanded Shimshon. While, the YAMAS Gaza wasn't disbanded as was its IDF equivalent, it was significantly  reduced in size. However, in 2001, following the Israeli-Palestinian clashes, the YAMAS Gaza was recreated with additional teams and upgraded gear and was later renamed YAMAS South.

 

Training


The units' selection and training regime is intense and rigorous. Out of each ten soldiers which apply for the units typically about two will make it throughout selection and training.

The entire units' training regime last a year and is comprised of the following stages:

  • In order to apply for YAMAS one must first posses basic and advanced infantry training, either in the MAGAV or in the IDF. This training last around six months.

  • Four months of counter terror and undercover training, including Arabic linguistic skills and Krav Maga. During this phase, the operators first practice blending in at Arab villages within Israel. Once successful, they continue training at higher risk Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

  • Once the training is concluded some operators will take advanced courses such as sniping, driving, medics, etc.

 

Deployment


YAMAS conduct operations on a nearly daily basis and are among the busiest SF units in Israel. In the past, much of YAMAS units' activity was riots control, with direct actions performed primarily by Duvdevan and YAMAM. However, in the past decade many officers from YAMAM transferred into YAMAS, enhancing the units' tactical capabilities, and leading to increase involvement in direct actions.

Over the years, YAMAS operators disguise was so effective and realistic that in several occasions undercover operators were mistakenly identified as rioters by Israeli security forces.

YAMAS Guide