Israeli Order of Battle in the 1956 Arab-Israeli War

Up to and including the 1956 Arab-Israeli War the IDF was a predominantly infantry based organisation. Israel’s armour focus only came after the Moshe Dayan (IDF Chief-of-Staff) saw how effective armour operations could be during Operation Kadesh. The plan for the Sinai Campaign was to have the armour in infantry support roles; as it turned out they did some nifty blitzkrieg type attacks.

Israeli Organisation

Israel had 600 half-tracks. I believe each Brigade included mechanised/motorised infantry (half-tracks and/or 6 x 6 trucks), although this might have been just the Armoured Brigades.

Tank Battalions had about 50 tanks, and Tank companies about 13.

202nd Parachute Brigade

Details of the 202nd come from Dayan (1965), Katz (1988) and Herzog (1982). Katz says the paratroop brigade was called “Unit 202” until 1957, however, Dayan and Herzog consistently refer to it as the “202 Parachute Brigade”. I adopt the latter convention here mainly ’cause it sounds more impressive.

202nd Parachute Brigade (Col. Ariel Sharon)

  • 890th Paratroop Battalion (Lt. Col. Rafael Eitan). 395 men.
    • 3 companies
    • 1 reconnaissance company including
      • eight jeeps for reconnaissance
    • Support equipment including:
      • 4 x French 106mm recoilless anti-tank guns
      • 2 x 120mm mortars
  • 88th Nahal Paratroop Battalion (Maj. Mordechai Gur)
  • 771st Reserve Paratroop Battalion (Yisrael Cohen) *
  • Reconnaissance unit in trucks (both sources call this a “unit” and my guess is that it was a company as it was expanded to a battalion in 1957)

The 202nd seems to have included support units for Operation Kadesh (Herzog, 1982), which I suspect were not part of the regular organisation but I could be wrong.

  • 2 x Half-track battalions **
  • 1 x Tank company (Zvi Dahav)
    • 13 x AMX-13
  • 1 x battery of field artillery with 25-pounder guns
  • 1 x battery of 120mm mortars
  • 2 x companies of ‘Nahal’ ***

Not all these troops reached Mitla. 10 tanks and 60 other vehicles broke down in the sands the Brigade had to navigate. In addition, a company was left to garrison Themed, and a Battalion to garrison Nakhel.

* Yisrael Cohen commanded the Battalion left to secure Nakhel (Sharon & Chanoff, 2001). I assume this was the 771st as the other two Paratroop battalions saw action at Mitla.

** Mentioned by Herzog (1982) I believe these were the vehicles for the paratroopers to ride in, rather than separate Mechanised Infantry units, as Dayan (1965) doesn’t list them at all.

*** Mentioned by Dayan (1965), but not Herzog (1982).

Northern Command

The Northern Task Force operated in the Gaza Strip and Rafah area and was organised as follows (structure from Laffin, 1982, with details from Dayan, 1965, and Herzog, 1982):

  • 1st “Golani” Infantry Brigade (Col. Benjamin Gibli)
    • 4 x Infantry Rifle Battalions (they had an additional Battalion added for this operation)
      • At least the 3rd Battalion (Lt-Col. Meir Pail) was in half-tracks and 6 x 6 trucks.
    • 1 x Battery of 120mm Mortars
    • 1 x Battery of anti-tank guns – 12 x Anti-tank guns
    • 1 x Engineer Battalion
  • 27th Reserve Armoured Brigade (Col. Chaim Bar-Lev)
    • 1 x Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 4 x Rifle Companies on half-tracks
      • 1 x Tank Platoon with AMX-13s (not sure if attached or permanently part of the battalion)
    • 2 x Tank Companies with ~ 13 M50 Super Shermans each
    • 1 x Tank Company with ~ 13 Shermans (M4A1 with 76.2 mm gun)
    • 1 x Tank Company with ~ 13 AMX-13s
    • Reconnaissance unit
      • 7 jeeps
    • 2 x Engineer Sections
    • 1 x SPG Platoon with 105mm guns (presumably on AMX chasis; these might have been part of the AMX company, as Herzog, 1982, only mentions 2 AMX-13 platoons plus the SPG)
  • 12th Infantry Brigade (Elazar)
    • 1 x Infantry battalion (only employed to mop up Tor and Gaza after they had been taken by other units)

A divisional task force under Brig-Gen. Chaim Laskov was assembled from these troops for the attack on Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip (Herzog, 1982):

  • 1st “Golani” Infantry Brigade (Col. Benjamin Gibli)
    • 4 x Battalions
    • 1 x battery of field artillery, presumably 25 pounders
    • 1 x battery of heavy mortars, presumably 120mm mortars
    • 1 x battalion Engineers
    • with 1 Tank Company from the 27th attached – probably Super Shermans
  • 27th Reserve Mechanised Brigade (Col. Chaim Bar-Lev)
  • Ineffective support from Israeli Airforce, Navy and a French Cruiser

The Israeli force that took the Gaza City was under Col. Aharon Doron (Herzog, 1982):

  • 11th Infantry Brigade (Col. Aharon Doron)
    • 2 x Infantry Battalions (including 120mm mortars)
  • Combat team from 37th Armoured Brigade
    • 1 x Tank Company with Shermans
    • 1 x Mechanised Infantry Company on half-tracks

Southern Command

The southern commanded was under Maj-Gen. Assaf Simhoni. Its main component was the 38th Divisional Group (Dayan, 1965; Laffin, 1982; Herzog, 1982):

38th Divisional Group (Col. Yehuda Wallach)

  • 4th Reserve Infantry Brigade (Col. Joseph Harpaz)
    • 3 x Battalions
    • 1 x battery of field artillery, presumably 25 pounders
    • 1 x battery of medium artillery
    • 1 x battery of heavy mortars, presumably 120mm mortars
  • 10th Reserve Infantry Brigade
    • 3 x Battalions
    • 1 x battery of field artillery, presumably 25 pounders
    • 1 x battery of heavy mortars, presumably 120mm mortars
    • (Also drew upon the artillery assets of the 4th Brigade)
  • 7th Armoured Brigade (Col. Uri Ben-Ari)
    • 79th Tank Battalion with AMX-13s
    • 82nd Tank Battalion with Shermans (M4A1 with 76.2mm guns)
    • 1 x Mechanised Infantry Battalion (Half-tracks)
    • 1 x Motorised Infantry Battalion (Trucks)
    • 1 x battery field artillery, presumably 25 pounders
  • 1 x Artillery group
  • 1 x Engineer Battalion

Herzog (1982) mentions Lt-Col Avraham Adan as being a battalion commander in the 7th, but I don’t know which battalion.

Elements of the 37th Brigade supported the 10th Brigade at Abu Ageila.

Herzog (1982) says the 7th Brigade was in the southern command and the 37th was in the reserve, whereas Laffin (1982) and Van Creveld (1998) say the reverse. Herzog mainly ’cause he was an Israeli officer at the time and gives detailed accounts of the actions of the two brigades whereas Laffin just gives an overall command structure.

GHQ Reserve Command

The Command Reserve contained (Dayan, 1965; Laffin, 1982; Herzog, 1982):

  • 37th Reserve Armoured Brigade (Col. Shmuel Galinka)
    • 1 x Tank Battalion with Shermans (Laffin, 1982, says Shermans, and Zaloga, 1981, says Super Shermans, Dayan, 1965, says a mix)
    • 1 x Tank Squadron with AMX-13s
    • 1 x Motorised Infantry Battalion with half tracks
    • 1 x Motorised Infantry Battalion with trucks
    • 1 x company Engineers
  • 9th Reserve Infantry Brigade (Col. Avraham Yoffe) – described as fully motorised
    • 2 x Motorised Infantry Battalions (91st and 92nd) on half-tracks and 6 x 6 trucks (Dayan says 3 Battalions)
    • 1 x reconnaissance unit
    • 1 x battery field artillery, probably 25-pounders
    • 1 x battery heavy mortar, probably 120mm
    • 1 x anti-aircraft troop
    • 1 x battalion Engineers

See then notes under southern command for the dispute over where the 7th and 37th brigades were assigned.

Israeli Equipment

This is just the list of equipment I’ve seen mentioned. It is not an exhaustive list.


Tanks (predominantly acquired from France)

  • 200 x Shermans and Super Shermans
  • 100 x AMX-13s.
  • 60 x Obusier automoteur de 105 Modele 50 (Self propelled 105 mm howitzers on AMX-13 chassis)

Other vehicles

  • M3 Half-tracks
  • 6 x 6 trucks
  • jeeps


  • 106mm recoilless anti-tank guns
  • 25-pounder guns
  • 120mm mortars

Infantry Weapons

  • Czech made Mauser Kar 98K rifle.
  • Israeli Uzi Sub-machinegun
  • Besa light machine guns.
  • Bazookas

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