Israel News

The Untold Story of the Israeli Navy

While Israel’s navy doesn’t always get a lot of fame or glory, it’s surprisingly one of the most successful divisions of the Israel Defense Forces, and is playing a key role in the current Israel-Hamas War.

Read about the unsung heroes of the Israeli Navy here!

The Israeli Navy was established in 1948 as part of the Israel Defense Forces, and has evolved into a formidable force safeguarding the nation’s coastline and defending its borders with unwavering commitment and ingenuity.

The navy deploys cutting-edge technologies and unconventional tactics to stay ahead of evolving threats in the Eastern Mediterranean. It has been engaged in a number of Israel’s wars, and its special forces conduct daring counterterrorism operations and covert missions.

Israel’s naval forces are known for their discipline, innovation, and bravery, as well as commanding impressive ships and submarines.

Two battle ships of the Israeli Navy, Sa’ar 5 class missile corvettes, docked in Haifa, Israel
10 Must-Know Facts About the Israeli Navy

An Israeli naval combat ship participating in a maritime parade off the coast of Haifa in the Mediterranean Sea

 

1. The official name of the Israeli Navy is חיל הים הישראלי, Ḥeil HaYam HaYisraeli, or literally "The Israeli Sea Corps." Its formal mission includes safeguarding Israel's borders, protecting sea routes for merchant shipping, obtaining intelligence, and assisting the ground troops and the Israeli Air Force during wartime.

2. The Navy includes an elite naval commando unit called Shayetet 13 ("Flotilla 13"), which specializes in maritime and amphibious operations such as counterterrorism, sabotage, and intelligence gathering. One of Israel's famed special forces units, Shayetet 13 is comparable to the U.S. Navy SEALs and is one of the most elite forces in the world.

3. One of the most famous missions of Shayetet 13 was an amphibious raid in Beirut in 1973 coordinated with the Mossad, which killed several members of the Black September terrorist group in retaliation for the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre.

 

Commandos of the elite Israeli naval unit Shayetet 13 during training (Photo: Ziv Koren, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

 

4. Another prominent contribution of the Israeli Navy was in the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Israel sank several Syrian and Egyptian ships without any losses of its own, ensuring a tactical advantage for the IDF.

5. The Israeli Navy has major bases in the ports of Haifa, Ashdod, and Eilat, while its headquarters are in the main IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv.

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The Israeli Navy's INS Dolphin submarine (Photo: Shlomi Liss, GNU Free Documentation License)

 

6. For a small country, Israel's Navy has an impressive fleet of missile boats, missile corvettes, submarines, patrol boats, support ships, commando boats, and even aircraft. While Israel purchases some of its naval ships from the US and Germany, many are made right in Israel!

7. Israel's naval fleet includes state-of-the-art, Dolphin-class submarines, which are considered among the most advanced non-nuclear submarines globally.

8. The Navy's special forces helped smuggle thousands of Ethiopian Jewish refugees out of Africa and to Israel in the 1980s as part of Operation Moses.

9. The Israeli Navy enforces a maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip to prevent the smuggling of weapons and materials used by terrorist groups, ensuring the safety and security of Israeli civilians.

 

The Israeli Navy in action, seizing an Iranian weapons shipment headed for Gaza in March, 2014 (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Israel)

 

10. The Navy is also playing an important role in the current Israel-Hamas War. It thwarted attempts at a naval invasion on October 7th, 2023, which would have made the massacre by Hamas even worse.

In addition, Shayetet 13 special forces took part in the battles in Israeli kibbutzim in which they helped free civilian hostages and captured Hamas commanders. Shayetet 13 is currently fighting in Gaza, with successes such as raiding Hamas' general security headquarters in Jabalia.

 

Are you inspired by the Israeli Navy and the rest of the Israel Defense Forces?

Express your pride and support for Israel's bravest with our meaningful IDF gifts and Support Israel gifts designed by Israeli artists!

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