The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are preparing to face the ever-changing technologies of war with a new elite unit, intended to deal with advanced chemical weapons, reports Israel Hayom. According to the paper, the new company, called Sayfan, or Gladiolus, is part of the engineering corps’ elite Yahalom (Diamond) commando unit.
An officer familiar with the details told the paper that the decision to create the company was prompted by the most up-to-date intelligence assessments. The unit’s mission will be to detect, identify and respond appropriately to unconventional weapons in a combat zone.
The international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of certain chemical weapons, some of which have been deployed during Syria’s ongoing civil war. Although most such weapons have since been removed from Syria, it is assumed that the country still maintains “residual capabilities”, and with current tensions, it is impossible to predict in whose hands these will ultimately fall.
Additionally, there are non-lethal, but incapacitating, chemical weapons which are not covered by the CWC, such as chlorine, still in use by Israel’s enemies. Similar chemical agents are in use almost daily in Syria, though, thankfully, officials say Hezbollah in Lebanon does not have such weapons.
This will be where Sayfan comes in. Recruitment for the unit began eight months ago, and training for the first recruits will be completed some eight months from now. In addition to standard training, members are required to take courses in biology and chemistry.
According to the officer, members of the unit will have advanced security clearance, a unique skill set and access to brand new technologies.
“We need fighters who are responsible enough to operate this equipment; fighters who know how to think on their feet and use good judgment,” the officer said.
Sayfan was initiated when it was decided to alter the responsibilities of the unconventional weapons unit, the 76th Battalion. Until now, its primary responsibility has been to respond after the fact, “identifying and cleansing” areas contaminated by chemical and biological weapons on the battlefield. One official explained this was undertaken because the “threat of chemical weapons isn’t what it used to be.”
The new unit is just one of many changes undertaken by the IDF’s engineering corps. Following the experiences of Operation Protective Edge, a decision was made to vastly expand the scope and size of the unit. While the unit had been previously led by a lieutenant colonel, it has been transferred to the command of a full colonel, with the recent appointment of Col. Yaron Beit-On.