The Paratroopers Brigade, also known as the 35th Brigade, is a unit of paratroopers within the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and forms a major part of the Infantry Corps. It has a history of carrying out special forces-style missions dating back to the 1950s. It is currently involved primarily in counter terror operations within the West Bank.
Serving in the brigade is voluntary and requires passing a one and a half-day physical test. The IDF has three reservist paratrooper brigades at any given time, consisting of personnel who served their mandatory service in the brigade, and who are mostly in their twenties (aside from officers). These are most likely the most highly trained reservist brigades in the IDF.
The brigade was created at the mid 1950s when the commando Unit 101 was merged with the 890th Battalion (the IDF’s Airborne Commando unit) in order to form an elite infantry brigade. The new unit was equipped with the IMI Uzi submachine gun as their primary weapon as it provided light and small automatic fire – essential properties for recon units and commandos.
The goals in creating the Paratroopers Brigade were:
- To have an elite infantry force.
- To innovate and improve fighting skills within other infantry units.
- To raise the next generation of military commanders and officers.
The first commander of the Paratroopers Brigade was Ariel Sharon.
The Paratroopers Brigade has had only two operational combat parachute drop, during the 1956 Sinai War. In the Six Day War (1967) the brigade took part in the capture of Jerusalem, along with the Jerusalem Brigade, Harel Brigade and armored support. The Paratroopers were the ones to capture the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, considered an historic moment and the highlight of the war by the Israeli public due to the sanctity of these places to the Jewish people.
In January 1970, during the War of Attrition, the brigade spearheaded Operation Rhodes, taking over the Egyptian island of Shadwan. Three Israeli soldiers were killed in the raid
which saw the paratroops remain on the island for 36 hours before departing with 62 Egyptian POWs and a captured Decca radar set.
In the following years, the brigade was the source for many Israeli Chiefs of Staff, including Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya’alon.
Structure and Insignia
The 35th (Paratrooper) Brigade consists of three regular battalions, each bearing the name of a venomous snake. The 101st, bearing the number of disbandedUnit 101, is the Brigade’s first battalion. The 202nd is the Brigade’s second battalion and was numbered to keep it in line with the 101st. The 890th, although the brigade’s 3rd battalion, was in fact the IDF’s first paratrooper battalion. A Sayeret (Recon/Special Forces Company) designated Sayeret Tzanhanim is directly subordinate to the brigade headquarters.
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Soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade are distinguished by their red beret, paratrooper wings, reddish-brown leather boots and the paratroopers tunic (Yerkit), which is slightly different from the regular ground forces service dress.
(Paratrooper units are named after snakes.)
- 101st “Cobra” Airborne Battalion
- 202nd “Viper” Airborne Battalion
- 890th “Echis” Airborne Battalion
- “Flying Serpent” Reconnaissance Battalion
- “Naja” Anti-Tank Company
- “Coluber” Engineer Company
- 5173rd “Taipan” Reconnaissance Company
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