Sayeret Matkal, also known as General Staff Reconnaissance Unit 269, is the most well known and elite of Israel's commando units.
Founded in 1957, Sayeret Matkal operatives have led or played an instrumental part in almost every notable counter-terrorist operation conducted by Israel. It is also the primary unit dedicated to hostage rescue missions within Israel. During periods of war, Sayeret Matkal is tasked with the most risky intelligence gathering and reconnaisance operations and also performs other crucial missions behind enemy lines. Sayeret Matkal has been assisted on occasion by other Israeli special forces units, including Shayetet-13, Shaldag and the 669 Rescue Unit.
Sayeret Matkal is known or believed to have taken part in Operation Gift (sabotage of Arab airliners in Beirut, 1968), Operation Rooster (capture of an Egyptian radar station, 1969), Operation Isotope (rescuing hostages from hijacked Sabena plane, 1972), Operation Spring of Youth (killing Black September terrorists in Beirut, 1973), Operation Thunderbolt (rescue of Israeli hostages in Uganda, 1976) and Operation Sharp and Smooth during the Second Lebanon War.
Despite being a relatively small and secretive unit, many of Israel's political and military leaders have emerged from the ranks of Sayeret Matkal. Notably Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, IDF Chiefs-of-Staff Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon, Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter, Mossad Chief Danny Yatom and Naftali Bennett, leader of The Jewish Home political party.
Sources: The Terrorism Research Center