Unit 101 was an Israeli special operations unit founded and led by Ariel Sharon on orders from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in August 1953. It was created to retaliate against a spate of Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians. According to Sharon, Gurion told him that "the Palestinians must learn that they will pay a high price for Israeli lives". Its commander was major Sharon, his deputy in command was Shlomo Baum. Unit 101 established small unit maneuvers, activation and insertion tactics that are utilized even today. Beside Sayeret MATKAL, Unit 101 is considered to be the unit with the most influence on the Israeli infantry oriented units including both special and conventional units.
Part from its tactical innovations, Unit 101 was also unique in two ways:
* It was the first time the IDF formed a brand new SF unit from scratch, rather then modify a previously exiting infantry oriented unit, like with the Golany brigade Special Reconnaissance Platoon.
* It was the first time the IDF formed a unit that received its orders directly from the IDF General Staff (the IDF High Command - MATKAL) and not by a lower sub-command.
Whatever the moral implications of its design, the tactic was remarkable effective politically because the terrorists simply could not keep up with the attrition. Thus attacks on Israel dropped off and the political objective of unit 101 was accomplished. After this point, the unit shifted to a more military focus and spent the remainder of its existence attacking harder targets. The unit came under harsh criticism after the Qibya massacre, which left 69 civilians dead.
Unit 101 was disbanded in late 1955.
* Direct action;
* Strategic reconnaissance;
* Unconventional warfare;
* Activities specified by Government.
Raised and Disbanded
raised: August 1953;
Tel Aviv, Israel.
History - Origin
The background to the founding of Unit 101 was the Palestinian infiltration into the young state of Israel from its Arab neighbours during which hundreds of Israelis were murdered. Israel's initial responses did not manage to contain this phenomenon. Although Jordanian and initially Egyptian authorities tried to comply with the cease-fire agreements, the decision was almost never carried out by troops on the ground.
So in 1951 the IDF formed Unit 30 - a classified Unit that belonged to the IDF South command. Unit 30 was designed to execute retaliation missions while operating in small and well-trained teams. However, Unit 30 operatives lacked sufficient and proper SF training, and performed poorly, so in 1952 the Unit was disbanded.
After a series of unsuccessful raids, the Israeli government decided in summer 1953 on the creation of a special forces unit, Israel's first. Reservist Ariel Sharon was called back to duty, given the rank of major and chosen to command the company-sized unit. Unit 101 was composed of 20-25 men, most of them former T'zanhanim (Paratroopers) and Unit 30 personnel.
Immediately after the foundation of Unit 101 in 1953, it began a series of retaliatory operations targeting bases and villages which served as bases for the infiltrators. On one of its first missions, the unit attacked the refugee camp in El-Bureij in Gaza Strip. The mission was aimed at Col. Mustafa Hafez, the chief of Egyptian intelligence in the Gaza Strip (and according to some, the Strip's de-facto ruler) who stood behind many of the early violent infiltrations into Israel.
According to the local UN officer Vagn Bennike, hand grenades were thrown into houses while the inhabitants were sleeping, and those trying to escape were mowed down with machine guns.
Only two months later, in October, a heavy shadow was cast on the unit, following its raid into the village of Qibya, in the northern West Bank then a part of Jordan. Up to 70 innocent civilians were killed in this operation. The mode of operation was similar to that of El-Bureig, but on a larger scale.
The widely condemned attack on Qibya made the Israeli leadership forbid the IDF to directly target innocent civilians in the future. By January 1954, the unit was disbanded and merged into the Paratroopers Brigade, and unit commander Ariel Sharon became the commander of the merged brigade. The unit existed independently five months, and three more years as a core inside the paratrooper brigade, before being disbanded after the 1956 Suez War.
Beginning with 1954, the unit's activities were mostly confined to military targets. In particular, up to 20 such attacks were carried out in 1955-1956, culminating in the Kalkiliya Police raid of October 1956 - a battle by a position of the Arab Legion in one of the old British police forts, during which 18 Israeli soldiers and up to a hundred Legionnaires died.
Once disbanded, Unit 101 was merged with T'zanhanim company. After the merger the joint outfit turned into a brigade size unit, composed of two battalions - 869 Battalion (made out of the original T'zanhanim company personnel) and 101 Battalion (made out of former Unit 101 personnel).
With the increase in manpower, the T'zanhanim unit became an elite infantry brigade rather the elite infantry company as it was before. This merger was actually quite ironic since the T'zanhanim officers were originally the biggest opposition against the creation of Unit 101 as simply didn't wanted another competitor for prestigious retaliation missions that until the formation of Unit 101 where their own bread and butter.
With the much larger personnel, Arik Sharon, the former Commanding Officer (CO) of Unit 101 and then the new CO of the T'zanhanim infantry brigade, was able to launch full scale SF attacks against Arab terrorists, and the T'zanhanim infantry brigade pretty much ruled all the Israeli SF operations in the rest of 1950's.
In the late 1950's the IDF noticed that since the T'zanhanim Unit had turned into a infantry brigade rather then the SF unit it was before, it was lacking a small SF unit. So in 1958 Abraham Arnan formed Sayeret MAT'KAL, answering directly to the IDF High Command.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -