The IDF has recently begun stationing new immigrant soldiers, veterans of the Russian army's fighting in Chechnya, as snipers in the territories. The snipers have been organized into a unit known as the "immigration (aliyah) brigade." Membership in this unit, which came into being after the outbreak of the intifada, is made up mainly of relatively older immigrants, aged 40 or older, who were not eligible for reserve duty because of their age. Nevertheless, they volunteered to serve on security details in the settlements.
The members of the unit had requested that they be allowed to contribute the skills they learned as sharpshooters during the fighting in Chechnya between the Russian army and Chechnyan separatists. So the IDF began stationing some of them in its reserve units in the territories. Immigrants with special sharpshooter skills then began to assist the army in overcoming weak points in various locations in the territories.
A senior security official told Haaretz that some of the immigrants are much more highly trained and experienced as sharpshooters than is the norm in the IDF. While the IDF conducts a five-week snipers' course, the Russian army trains its sharpshooters for about a year in infantry units.
The official also said that the professional experience gained by the immigrants in Chechnya had been very helpful to the IDF in the fighting in the territories. He noted that local commanders in units where the immigrant-snipers have been stationed pressure their superiors to keep them on duty for extended periods of time.
Over the last decade, the IDF has changed and significantly improved its method of sniper training. A large number of the armed Palestinians that have been injured during violent incidents in the territories over the past three years have been shot by IDF snipers. The same was true of incidents involving the Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon during the years prior to the withdrawal of the IDF in May 2000.
New immigrants from the FSU also make up a significant number of the sharpshooters in the ranks of the regular army. The number of sharpshooters among the new immigrants is greater than their relative numbers in other combat units (where they make up approximately one-fourth of all combat soldiers). IDF officers claim that the new immigrant soldiers usually have more patience than their native-born Israeli counterparts, with patience an important characteristic required of snipers. The officers say that the mew immigrants also stand out in terms of their technological know-how and skills, which is one of the important requirements for entry into a sharpshooters' training course.
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