An Insider’s Look at IDF Counter-Terror School

IDF Counter-Terror School specializes in high-altitude operations, underground warfare and rapid response to extreme scenarios.  

IDF counter-terror forces (Photo: Eden Briand, IDF/CC BY-NC 2.0)

The IDF Counter-Terror School, LOTAR, is one of Israel’s most capable and secretive units. The elite force is on constant alert to respond to terrorism incidents and also offers specialized training to many other combat units.

The unique school is based in an IDF facility in central Israel and focuses on several areas of specialty. The know-how accumulated over the years enables the army to cope with complex challenges such as hostage situations or underground warfare.

The unit’s Counter-Terrorism Branch serves as the supreme authority in the field. This department is tasked with perfecting the combat doctrine and preparing forces across the military to cope with diverse terror threats.

The branch provides advanced courses to IDF Special Forces, focusing on intervention in high-risk scenarios such as terrorist infiltration and hostage-taking. The department’s instructors are also deployed as intervention teams in real-time incidents.  

The High-Altitude Branch may be the most well-known and specializes in operations requiring a rapid response via rappelling or other methods. The branch’s front-line forces, known as “monkeys,” are charged with neutralizing enemy fighters and rescuing hostages.

LOTAR forces in action (Photo: Eden Briand, IDF/CC BY-NC 2.0)

These highly trained specialists carry out maneuvers such as fast-roping from helicopters, rappelling from rooftops and breaking through windows. A critical skill for “monkeys” is to disengage swiftly after performing their mission, to prevent incidents of friendly fire as more forces enter from other directions.     

The Snipers Branch trains elite forces across the IDF in advanced sharpshooting techniques. By the completion of the courses, snipers can hit targets from long distances with one bullet.

A sub-division of the branch is comprised of highly skilled LOTAR snipers who specialize in close-range combat in urban areas while on the move.

Fighting in terror tunnels

LOTAR’s Combat Branch is in charge of warfare in challenging urban settings. The department’s instructors train IDF combat units in neutralizing enemy forces in residential areas.

In addition to shooting and combat techniques, the branch also offers training in hand-to-hand fighting.

The Underground Warfare Branch is tasked with developing methods to counter the threat of terror tunnels. In recent years, the branch acquired vast knowledge in this field of growing importance, an officer in the unit told The Jerusalem Post last year.

The department’s fighters excel in dealing with conditions of uncertainty while offering a rapid response to unorthodox threats.

The Breaching Branch plays a key role in raids on enemy hideouts or rescue operations. Forces are trained to quickly break through doors and other obstacles with the use of specialized tools.

Members of this branch are picked based on their ability to work quickly under immense pressure, as the success of special operations often hinges on their ability to clear the way for other forces.

Finally, a sub-division of crucial importance is LOTAR Eilat, a reserve unit stationed in Israel’s southernmost city. The resort town’s location, near the Egyptian border and far from Israel’s population centers, makes it particularly vulnerable to terror attacks.

In case of major incidents, the Eilat branch is called upon to quickly counter attackers and offer a strong first response. Given these requirements, all members of the branch are residents of the city.