Soldiers from the IDF's Lotar Eilat unit. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit) (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Lotar Eilat

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Lotar Eilat is a rapid-intervention team that was involved in neutralizing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror cell on Friday.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

As a Palestinian terror wave threatens Israel during the month of Ramadan, the IDF has taken the unusual step of deploying an elite unit based in Eilat to Judea and Samaria, the Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.

The unit has already participated in several arrest raids.

Lotar Eilat is a rapid-intervention team stationed in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat. It hasn’t been deployed to Judea and Samaria since 2019.

Lt.-Col. “A,” the commander of Lotar Eilat, confirmed his unit was involved in neutralizing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror cell on Friday. Three terrorists in a car were killed in a shootout with security forces. Authorities called them a “ticking time bomb” on their way to carry out an attack.

The IDF maintains a “territorial unit” in Eilat because of its distance from central Israel. In the event of a terror attack, IDF forces elsewhere in the country would need two or three hours to arrive. Beersheba is 232 km (144 miles) away.

That requires a local unit operating at an elite level.

Command Sgt.-Maj. “R,” one of the Lotar Eilat’s team commanders told the Post that the unit is made up of reservists who already live in Eilat — hotel workers, waiters, security guards and municipal employees — who previously served in other elite units.

“The moment there is an event, our response is strong and professional. We are training exactly for that, to fight and give the strong impact that is necessary,” R. said.

“If we need to enter a hotel, we know it. We know all the entrances and know how to use special means on buildings if necessary. That’s our specialty.”

Eilat faces a unique combination of threats due to its immediate proximity to the Sinai peninsula and Jordan. Saudi Arabia is a one-hour drive. Threats of maritime infiltration must also be taken into account.

And as a resort, perhaps the biggest concern is a hostage situation at one of Eilat’s hotels.

Since 2010, Eilat has weathered a number of rockets fired by Islamic State terrorists in the Sinai.

The last terror attack in Eilat’s vicinity was in 2011 when terrorists on the Egyptian side of the border opened fire on an Egged bus, detonated an explosive device near an IDF border patrol and then fired an anti-tank missile at a civilian car.

Eight civilians and two Israeli security personnel were killed. The terrorists also killed five Egyptian soldiers. Israel blamed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees and launched retaliatory air strikes on the strip.

“We are on the borders of Jordan and Egypt, and any infiltration by a terrorist, even by swimming or jet ski, needs us to respond,” R said.

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