Six-Day War: The Israeli Navy’s commandos ‘suicide missions’

Shayetet 13 (‘Flotilla 13′), the Israeli Navy’s special operations unit, was sent at the start of the Six-Day War on a daring series of missions deep within enemy territory, which included covert assault on harbors in Syria and Egypt.

Those missions can now retroactively be called suicide missions, as in spite of the soldiers’ bravery, the heroic missions failed spectacularly as some of the combatants were even taken captive due to intelligence and navigation errors.

Six-Day War_ The Israeli Navy's commandos 'suicide missions'(1)
Fifty years later, the commandos meet in the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum in Haifa. Even though their average age is above 80, their rough and rugged nature is still clearly apparent. They joke around at each other’s expense, reminisce about the times and the harrowing tortures they suffered in captivity and note that even though the mission failed, it showed the lengths to which the sailors of Shayetet 13 would go to defend their country.

‘There was no chance we could make it back’

On June 1, 1967, the Israeli submarine Tanin (“Crocodile”) was sent for a sabotage mission in the Egyptian Navy’s Alexandria harbor, under the command of Maj. Abraham Dror.

 Abraham Dror (Photo: Naval Museum)Abraham Dror (Photo: Naval Museum)

Dror commanded 60 crew members, which included 8 Shayetet 13 commandos and a Navy physician. Dror recounted the long days of waiting for the order to attack spent under the sea in the cramped submarine. “Whenever we could we would float up to sea level to recharge our electric batteries and to let the commandos practice swimming and stretch their muscles,” he recounted. On June 5, after a long and frustrating wait, the order was given to attack Alexandria harbor. Fifty years after that fateful moment, the submarine’s combat unit commander Capt. Eitan Lipschitz recounts the “suicide mission.”

 Eitan Lipschitz (L) and Abraham Dror (Photo: Assaf Kamar)Eitan Lipschitz (L) and Abraham Dror (Photo: Assaf Kamar)

“By our calculations, we needed at least nine hours of night to get out of the submarine, covertly enter the harbor and return safely, but it was June, which has the shortest nights all year—we had no chance to make it back in time. “I decided to keep that information to myself, as to not harm the sailors’ morale. I took the waterproof first-aid kit, took out the morphine and put in some cigarettes and matches, so at least I’d have something to smoke before they take me captive and electrocute my balls.”

(Photo: Naval Museum)(Photo: Naval Museum)

 

(Photo: Naval Museum)(Photo: Naval Museum)

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