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Operation "Sharp and Smooth” – Part 1 Release date 26.08.2018
12 years have passed since the Second Lebanon War when the IDF performed its largest commando operation deep in enemy territory. Throughout the years, the participating commanders, pilots and combatants remained silent and didn’t share any details regarding the operation. In a special interview for The IAF Site, the Commander of the IAF during the operation and then Commander of the IAF's Shaldag commando unit reveal everything about the daring operation. Operation “Sharp and Smooth” – Part 1
Eitam Almadon & Hadas Levav

The date: August 2 2006 - the Second Lebanon War is in progress. The forces: Around 100 aircraft escorting 180 elite commandos from the IAF's Shaldag commando unit and Sayeret Matkal. The goal: Raiding Hezbollah’s logistical front, located over 100 kilometers from the Israeli border. The target destination: The town of Baalbek, in which Hezbollah combatants and structures as well as core members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Lebanon are located.

Photography: Ziv Koren

To the Hezbollah Bastion
The Second Lebanon War began on July 12 2006, when Hezbollah attacked an IDF unit patrolling the northern border, killing 5 combatants and kidnapping two of the killed combatants bodies while bombing settlements in Western Galilee.

Graphic Design: Ron Tamir

“The first time the idea of Operation ‘Sharp and Smooth’ was brought up was a week after the war began”, recalled Maj. Gen. (Res’) Eliezer Shkedi, Commander of the IAF during the war. “The goal of the operation was to attack terrorists and gather intelligence. We wanted to show the enemy that they were vulnerable at each and every location. The location in which they felt the safest was in Baalbek”.

“The goal was to attack as many Hezbollah combatants as possible, to harm the organization's infrastructure and operational preparedness in the theatre while collect intelligence”, revealed Col. (Res’) A’, Commander of the Shaldag commando unit during the war. “Operating deep in enemy territory is necessary in order to influence the enemy's sense of security, to surprise them and make them divert their forces from the frontline in order to defend their home front”.

Graphic Design: Ron Tamir

Unheard Of
The Shaldag Unit put together the operation plan, practiced it and changed it according to the conclusions drawn from their practice in order to make it as precise as possible. “Performing such an operation during routine would require several months of preparation. In this case, it was done with much shorter combat procedures”, described Col. (Res’) A’. “The Shaldag Unit’s advantage is that it’s capable of working in short periods of time. The combatants’ fitness and the unit’s planning, command and control are of high quality. Identifying the big risks is necessary: how do we team up with the forces in the helicopters? How do we infiltrate the destinations? Raiding each structure is not as complex because we had performed hundreds of these operations”.

Maj. Gen. (Res') Shkedi at the IAF Headquarters during the Second Lebanon War

Maj. Gen. (Res’) Shkedi: “We relayed the operation plan to the Secretary of Defense and to the Prime Minister. This is a very significant operation – 180 combatants can get into trouble in a place like Baalbek. You can see how great the responsibility is on a Prime Minister who decides to execute an operation of this sort."

"We fire wherever we need to"
"We fly over the sea and enter the area with our main concern being SAMs (Surface-to-air missiles)", said Col. (Res') A'. Some missiles were launched at their direction, but they managed to evade them. "We fly over Mount Lebanon and make our landing approach. Flying over Mount Lebanon and seeing the Beqaa Valley stretched out underneath was impressive. A Sayeret Matkal commando force lands near the hospital via transport helicopter. Our advantage is the element of surprise, but the risk meant that our helicopter could have been hit".

Graphic Design: Ron Tamir

Shaldag Unit helicopters come in from the south and land three kilometers away from the destination. "We rendezvous and begin heading up the mountain", elaborated Col. (Res') A'. "Some troops move ahead and encounter what was thought to be a Hezbollah guard situated in a watchtower, but the place turns out to be abandoned".

They split up at the Sheikh Habib neighborhood, with each force handling two predesignated destinations. "I move forward with the first force on my lead and we head towards the first destination group. Our goal is to quickly break into structures and surprise the enemy, all while detecting their reinforcements both from the ground and the air and hitting them". Shaldag Unit combatants arrive at the destinations, place charges on the doors and set them off. "We fire wherever we need to", said Col. (Res') A'. "We begin searching for people. At one destination we identified Hezbollah terrorists. We knew they weren't senior members in advance – we interrogated them and they gave us information regarding two munition storage facilities which the IAF was due to strike later on in the night".

Archive Photo

Quick Thinking
A significant amount of digital data and weapons was found at the pre-designated destinations. Meanwhile, the observation force detects three Hezbollah members. "The Hezbollah forces understand we are there but they don't know where we are", said Col. (Res') A'. "Our observation force detects the Hezbollah members and our snipers fire. Later, attack helicopters are sent to attack". After the Shaldag combatants concluded their mission, they rallied the forces and began their return to the helicopters with several prisoners of war.

Archive Photo

"We head in the direction of the helicopters with the goal of taking off from a different helipad seeing as someone may have spotted us", recalled Col. (Res') A'. "After we make sure all combatants and hostages were onboard, we inform the helicopter crew that we have equipment and prisoners with us. A problem arises as soon as we take off: there is too much weight bearing down on the helicopter and we aren't able to take off. The crew quickly identifies the problem, drops a fuel tank and we take off successfully".