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Bennett declares ‘Yamam’ Israel’s national counterterrorism force

With new designation, Special Police Unit to receive additional NIS 10 million in funds as it is officially tasked with conducting major counterterrorism operations

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visits the Yamam police unit on December 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visits the Yamam police unit on December 1, 2021. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared the Israel Police’s Special Police Unit the national counterterrorism unit on Wednesday, an official designation that comes with both additional responsibilities and funding.

“The unit will be allocated NIS 10 million ($3.17 million) from the Prime Minister’s Office for 2022 to strengthen the unit, expand the network of troops, enlarge its manpower and upgrade its operational fitness, with an emphasis on weaponry and training facilities,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement about the decision.

With this designation, the Special Police Unit — often referred by its Hebrew acronym Yamam — will be made officially responsible for the country’s counterterrorism operations, for the purpose of hostage situations, dangerous arrest raids and more. Even before this designation, the 47-year-old police unit had already been taking the lead on such efforts in Israel and the West Bank.

“Formalizing the status of the Yamam as the national counterterrorism unit is an important force multiplier that will in many ways design the future of the unit for years to come,” Bennett said in a speech.

“The goal is for the Yamam to be the best counterterrorism unit in the world — and you are the right people for the mission,” he said, addressing the unit.

The decision was made following years of considerations by the National Security Council and was coordinated with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai. It requires — and is expected to receive — final approval from the security cabinet and will be brought for a vote shortly, the PMO said.

“The designation of the Yamam as the national unit should have been done a while ago, and we are here to do it — better late than never,” Barlev said in a speech.

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