Shayetet-13 (שייטת; Flotilla-13) is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy, often compared to the U.S. Navy SEALs.
The unit is considered one of the primary Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces (along with Sayeret Matkal and Shaldag). Shayetet 13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and boarding. The unit has taken part in almost all of Israel's major wars, as well as other actions and is one of the most secretive units in the Israeli military. The details of many missions and identities of active operatives are kept highly classified.
Shayetet-13 was formed in 1948 by Yohai Ben-Nun with men drawn from the ranks of the Palyam, the naval branch of the Haganah. The need for such a dedicated unit was a matter of debate during the early years of the IDF, and the unit subsequently suffered size and budget restrictions. The existence of S'13 was only made public in 1960 and the general Israeli Navy insignia worn by members until then was replaced with the bat-winged insignia used at present
S-13 has operated during all of Israel's wars, tasked with advanced reconnaissance, infiltration and sabotage. During the Lebanon War in the early 1980's, the unit demonstrated an excellent track record with dozens of successful operations that inflicted heavy losses upon Hezbollah, both in terms of manpower and equipment destroyed.
During the Palestinian War, from 2000 - 2005, Shayetet soldiers took part in various ground operations against the terror infrastructure of the Palestinians both in Gaza and the West Bank. Members of the unit were also used in the infamous Battle for Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.
Since 2000, the unit has earned wide acclaim for its successful capture of multiple vessels attempting to smuggle arms to Palestinian terrorists. These ships - the Karine A, Santorini, Abu-Yusuf, Francop and Victoria - were all heavily laden with many tons of advanced weaponary and missiles that would have been used to attack Israel.
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Shayetet was involved in one of the IDF's more daring missions of the war, when commandos flew hundreds of miles behind enemy lines, raided the Hezbollah stronghold city of Tyre and killed nearly 30 Hezbollah commanders including some who were in charge of the organizations rocket launching network.