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Unit Gideonim (Unit 33) is the Israeli Police (IP) elite intelligence oriented undercover unit. The unit was formed in 1994 in order to conduct Counter Terror (CT) intelligence gathering in the East Jerusalem region, as well as to fight hard core crime in the area.
The unit is located in classified civilian base in east Jerusalem.
The creation of Unit Gideonim was primarily motivated by the IP Commissioner then - Asaf Hefet'z, which was much of a Special Forces (SF) enthusiastic and also formed Unit YAMAM - Israel s elite domestic CT and hostage rescue unit. Today, the unit is one of the most covert units in Israel and is considered to be the second best civilian SF unit after Unit YAMAM.
When it was formed, the unit became the fourth undercover Israeli unit, together with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Sayeret Duvdevan and Sayeret Shimshon as well as MAGAV Unit YAMAS. Out of these four units, Unit Gideonim is considered to be the most controversial one, and many believe it was formed just so the IP will have a SF of its own.
The main friction was and still is between Unit Gideonim and Unit YAMAS, which are fighting over the same resources, especially with one of Unit YAMAS subunits also operating in the Jerusalem area. The tension between the two units is rather severe since Unit Gideonim
receive higher budget and has better manpower then Unit YAMAS.
While it was originally was designed more as a passive intelligence gathering oriented, Unit Gideonim, like many other Israeli SF units, soon acquired CT ability and was converted into a full-scale CT unit, operating in Arab cities and villages throughout Israel's frontiers as well as in the Occupied Territories, an area in which it was not officially designed to operate. Unit Gideonim operations in the Occupied Territories again caused a confrontation between it and Unit YAMAS, which operated in the exact same area since 1989.
The unit enjoys a very generous budget as well as a very high quality manpower, most of it consists of former IDF SF units personal. Primary weapons - Colt Commando (the 11.5 inch barrel carbine version of the M16A2), and the CAR15 (the carbine version of the M16A1). The M16 variants are usually outfitted with a Trijicon ACOG Reflex sights and with an under handgurads flashlight. Also used is the Israeli Military Industry (IMI) Mini Uzi Sub Machine Guns (SMG).
Secondary weapon - the IMI 941 Jericho handgun, which is standard issue in all the civilian SF units part from Unit YAMAM, which uses Glock 17.
Also used by the unit, are KATA black ceramic modular vests, brown fire resistant flight suits and helmet mounted flashlights.
A very unpleasant incident in Unit Gideonim was the mutiny in 1998. The IP and the MAGAV have two responsibilities - classic anti criminal police work and CT. In 1994 when Hefet z, the founder of the Unit YAMAM was appointed as the new IP Commissioner, he focused most of his attention on the CT part and the civilian SF units, especially Unit Gideonim and Unit YAMAM enjoyed an unprecedented resources.
While the CT activity in Hefet'z time as the IP Commissioner was very effective, the crime level reached new heights, especially with the massive immigration from the former soviet union bringing organized and sophisticated crime to Israel.
In 1998, after Hefet'z retirement from the IP, a new IP Commissioner was appointed - Yehouda Vileck. Unlike Hefet z who was "parachuted" into the IP after he concluded his service in Unit YAMAM, Vileck didn t have any SF background. He served as a regular police officer and came up in the ranks the old fashion way.
When he was appointed, Vileck decided to focus the IP attention on classic police work. As far as the two elite civilian units this meant one thing - the units will no longer be pure CT units, but will emerge into more SWAT type units, performing special police missions.
In order to insure that the units will follow his intention Vileck decided to appoints new Commanding Officers (CO) to the two units, ones that didn t grow in the units and that will be obligated to him and to him alone.
Of course, the units didn t take it too well. Both Unit Gideonim and especially Unit YAMAM always liked living in a fantasy world, in which they are elite military units, belonging to the IP and to the MAGAV only by incident, especially with the very low public image of MAGAV and the IP.
The problem first started in Unit Gideonim in August 1998, when the new CO, a former decorated Unit YAMAS officer, assumed command and the unit began performing criminal intelligence gathering missions. The members of unit almost immediately began complaining that the new CO is no good, that if he wouldn t be replaced they will simply resign, that the unit wasn t designed for doing such non-CT civilian missions, etc. In the Unit Gideonim incident, as well as in the Unit YAMAM mutiny a year later, Vileck show the same strong backbone behavior, giving total support to the new CO and kicking out the leaders of the mutiny.
Today, the unit future is unclear. A 1998 IP Committee, designed to examine the civilian SF situation, determined that the unit is too big and lack focus. Three options were brought up by the committee: To disbanded the unit all together, and to move all it's responsibilities to its big sister - Unit YAMAM. This is an unlikely option as the IP, like all other Israeli Security Organizations, isn't eager to disbanded any SF unit.
To turn the unit to a pure civilian oriented unit and at the same time resize it down considerably.
Move the unit under the command of the Israeli General Security Service (SHABACH). This is an unlikely option as the SHABACH already has its own covert CT unit known as "SHABACH Operations" ("SHABACH Mivt'zayim" in Hebrew).
So after reviewing all options, the most likely one is that unit will remain much as is, thus more civilian and anti crime oriented but will still maintain a strong CT capability.
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