Self-Liberation 101, Lesson 7.3: The Marighella Cell: Mission Planning and Execution
Obviously, the urban guerrilla cell exists for the purpose of carrying out operations. Successful operations begin with a disciplined and thorough planning process, followed by thorough preparations for the mission at hand. It is no exaggeration to state that those who fail to plan, plan to fail and those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Since the urban guerrilla is an independent warrior always on the offensive, he has complete freedom to choose the time, place and target of operations. Therefore, there is generally no need to hurry when preparing operations. Those who rush, generally rush to their deaths.
The foremost function of the cell leader during the preparatory phases is to ensure that undue enthusiasm does not trump good sense and that all preparations are carried out in a thorough manner before the active phases of an operation begin. Once the execution phase of the mission is at hand, all cell members must be prepared for rapid changes in the situation and capable of adapting to developments while acting in accordance with the mission intent.
Mission planning and execution for the urban guerrilla can be broken down into eleven mutually interconnected steps. These steps form a framework around which all operations should be based. They are not, however, a prescriptive straightjacket. Like all doctrine, they are a skeleton around which to build. The eleven Steps to Victory are:
- Determine and analyze the mission
- Issue a warning order
- Begin reconnaissance
- Develop a tentative plan
- Begin necessary preparations
- Complete reconnaissance
- Complete the plan
- Brief the plan to relevant cell members
- Execute the plan
- Exploit the results
We will now elaborate on each step, in order.
Step 1: Determine and Analyze the Mission
In this step, the cell leader and his or her comrades in arms take stock of their capabilities and limitations and determine what, in general terms, they will do next in order to advance The Cause. In this step, it is important to make a sober assessment of oneself and not to allow enthusiasm to override hard judgment.
Typically, urban guerrilla missions fall into one of six categories:
- Propaganda Action
- Logistical Operations
- Knowledge Acquisition
- Knowledge Dissemination
- Attack Against Infrastructure
- Direct Action
Propaganda Action focuses the cell entirely on dissemination of propaganda in order to achieve some result. Examples include poster-pasting, DVD distribution, online posting of propaganda materials and so forth. Cells undertaking this mission must remember that propaganda must be simple and direct in order to be effective. It must also be tailored closely to the target audience. It must appeal directly to emotion by convincing the subjects that things they value are in danger. It must name a specific individual or readily identifiable group for the subjects to hold responsible. The more specific the identification of those responsible, the better. In general, propaganda action is a fairly low-risk mission. The only item potentially lower on the risk scale is Knowledge Acquisition. Nonetheless, persons engaged in propaganda action face the risk of arrest, torture and murder by the security forces of the Regime.
Logistical Operations are missions designed to acquire supplies, funds and materiel needed to continue the struggle. Examples of these might be efforts to steal items not readily available on the open market, such as large quantities of chlorine gas, phosgene, heavy weapons, etc. Another example would be an effort to procure funds by selling drugs. Yet a third example would be a concerted effort to outfit an explosives lab or to construct a firing range.
Knowledge Acquisition focuses specific cell members on acquiring new knowledge and disseminating it among cell members. Examples of this would be a new explosives recipe or a new type of IED trigger. It might also involve general learning on a schedule, for example of chemistry, and might even include prolonged educational efforts such as enrollment in specific university courses. Of course, any information acquired must be carefully tested for accuracy, as Regime forces will routinely attempt to disseminate false knowledge, such as explosives recipes that omit certain safety steps or are designed to cause runaway chemical reactions producing toxic fumes and explosions. Thus new recipes must always be examined to determine whether they make sense chemically, whether the reaction will produce excess heat, etc. If necessary, a special test rig can be constructed where a “new” recipe can be tried out remotely.
Knowledge Dissemination focuses specific cell members on distributing guerrilla know-how. In general, this is an extremely hazardous mission. In the modern world, the best way to disseminate guerrilla knowledge is to use anonymous internet resources, such as blogs accessed via identity-disguising means, or hidden servers acting as knowledge repositories. Potential guerrillas are then lured to these sites via talkbacks on “legitimate” sites, by posting anonymous comments on ideologically sympathetic blogs and so forth. Knowledge can also be distributed via anonymous leaflets dropped into the mailboxes of persons likely to be sympathetic to The Cause or by leaving pamphlets and booklets where persons likely to be sympathetic to the cause will discover them. In general, the electronic means of dissemination are preferable, as they are more difficult to trace back to the originator of the information. Care must be taken not to disseminate details that may endanger the cell, such as specific locations of past operations, very detailed tactics, techniques and procedures (e.g. type of disguise typically used by cell members performing reconnaissance), etc. Best items for dissemination are generic doctrinal guides, explosives recipes, designs for rockets, IEDs and other such information of a technical nature. Not to be overlooked are guides to the behavior of the enemy, such as bomb squad operating procedures, the standing operating procedures of enemy military and police units, the known vulnerabilities of enemy vehicles and systems and other such information of value to guerrillas.
Attack Against Infrastructure is the best mission for newly formed cells as much infrastructure is not well guarded. It is also a high-payoff mission in terms of propaganda. Like all totalitarian police states, Israel imposes draconian censorship on all mass media. Therefore, news of small scale direct action, such as bombings, shootings or stabbings, may be suppressed by the Regime if the Regime finds it to be in its interest to do so. However, large scale attacks against infrastructure are difficult to hide. This is especially true of attacks against the electric grid. For example, the destruction of power lines leading to Gaza or Umm El Fahm during peak hours is likely to trigger cascade failures and might even cause a nationwide blackout. It is very difficult to hide the fact that something has happened when the power goes out in major cities. In such circumstances, claims of responsibility posted online via video or by other means are likely to go viral and/or be picked up and reported by foreign media despite Regime attempts at censorship. Attack against infrastructure is also an excellent way to prepare for direct action, as it strongly resembles direct action in terms of tactics, techniques and procedures.
Direct Action is the bread and butter of urban guerrilla operations. Unlike attack against infrastructure, which focuses on inanimate objects, direct action focuses on specific human targets. A sustained campaign of direct action is designed to deprive the targets of any semblance of normal life, produce psychological exhaustion and ultimately cause the targets to comply with articulated demands. In addition, propaganda associated with direct action, such as lists of grievances and demands disseminated alongside claims of responsibility, can have a drastic effect on third parties. Examples include the formation of new guerrilla cells inspired by the example and propaganda, massive repressions directed by the Regime against the communities represented by the guerrillas (which, in turn, breeds revolt), efforts by the Regime to empower “moderates” and so forth.
Direct action is a spectrum, progressing from non-violent direct action to non-lethal direct action and finally to lethal direct action of various intensity.
Non-violent direct action is action designed to get publicity while not causing significant physical harm to the target. The objective is to cause embarrassment and discomfort. At the soft end, these tactics are designed to portray the target as selfish and/or evil in the media, and/or to make the target look foolish. At the hard end, the goal is to cause emotional breakdown leading to temporary or permanent psychiatric hospitalization. This form of direct action is often taken by protest groups using a modified version of Marighella doctrine, such as ACT UP and Greenpeace. Examples include public egging, pie-throwing, screaming insults, spitting, spattering subjects with blood, paint and feces, activists chaining themselves to the target’s desk, invading the target’s office and/or private home in order to release animals or paint graffiti on the walls, etc.
Note that while non-violent direct action works well in democracies due to its publicity value, it is of little utility in a totalitarian police state such as Israel. Activists arrested in the course of non-violent direct action are likely to be tortured, imprisoned for prolonged periods of time on trumped-up charges, and even murdered. Furthermore, since the media is tightly censored, non-violent direct action generally has no effect on the public at large as the “mainstream” media will simply refuse to cover it. However, non-violent direct action can be a propaganda builder, as the brutal treatment of those arrested while attempting it and the general ineffectiveness of their “soft” methods can be played up in order to convince young people that violence is the only answer.
Non-lethal direct action involves bodily harm to targets. At the soft end, targets are pelted with rocks, slapped, punched, etc. At the “hard” end, targets are permanently crippled and/or disfigured, their homes are burned down, their loved ones are kidnapped and held hostage and so forth. Non-lethal direct action can be a very effective intimidator, inducing persons to radically change their behavior. However, it is generally significantly more dangerous to the guerrilla cell than lethal direct action using IEDs, sniping or drive-by shootings.
Obviously, lethal direct action involves killing targets on a greater or lesser scale. When one is faced with a murderous totalitarian police state, such as the modern-day State of Israel, lethal direct action is generally the only means to promulgate the message of the Resistance. Large-scale lethal direct action, such as a car bombing of a busy market, cannot be hidden. Nor can assassinations of prominent politicians or senior military officers. In addition, sometimes there exists no alternative whatsoever to lethal direct action because targets will never modify their behavior if approached and, moreover, even the act of demanding that they change their behavior will lethally endanger the cell. For example, any effort to change the minds of the mamlachti fanatics who betrayed Gush Katif and still counsel dati soldiers to obey illegal IDF orders will likely land resistance members directly in Israeli jail or, at the very least, result in their being placed under intense Shabak surveillance. Therefore, these people must be killed without warning and without attribution. For these reasons, virtually every cell will eventually have to carry out lethal direct action of some sort at one time or another.
Once the type of mission to undertake is settled, one must determine the general location where the action will take place. In the vast majority of cases, successful cells plan to conduct operations at some remove from the immediate neighborhood where they live, as responses by Regime security forces, such as blanket curfews, cordons and mass house-to-house searches, can otherwise endanger the cell. Balanced against this is the question of how well cell members know the prospective area of operations, how easy it is to get there, how easy it is to get out of there and how well cell members will blend in on location. The ideal area of operations is one where rapid approach and egress are available via numerous routes that are difficult to block on short notice, where the terrain and environment are familiar to cell members and where cell members blend in well. There is also the question of finances. For example, if the mission requires the renting of an apartment in order to carry out prolonged surveillance of the prospective target, the question of whether or not the cell can afford to pay the rent is obviously an important one.
When determining the mission, it is also important to take into account the current political and military circumstances as well as the mood of the public at large. One must match one’s goals to the situation at hand, and work to shift the situation in one’s favor. In the Holy Land, for example, the vast majority of Jews already support or condone attacks against the Ishmaelites and the infrastructure that supplies them. A large minority would condone attacks against openly antisemitic Israeli organizations such as Peace Now. Some would condone attacks against those who endanger Jews by profiteering from Ishmaelite labor. Vengeance attacks against Israeli kapos, Israeli propagandists and members of the Israeli ruling elite, on the other hand, would, regrettably, be condemned by the vast majority of the Jewish population, as the Jews are firmly under the sway of Israeli propaganda. Therefore, the cells of any prospective Jewish Resistance movement may choose not to begin by attacking the Israeli kapos and propagandists, but rather by attacking the Israelis’ Ishmaelite allies. The spectacle of the Israelis running hither and yon to restore utilities to their Ishmaelite friends and the escalating repression the Israelis will unleash against the Jewish People in an effort to ensure the safety of the Ishmaelites can then be played up in propaganda.
It is even possible that a cell chooses to produce and distribute propaganda or to acquire and/or disseminate guerrilla know-how instead of immediately proceeding to direct action against the enemy. The first two would be good options for newly formed cells whose members lack basic guerrilla skills, while the latter can be a good option for experienced cells who have suffered casualties that temporarily hinder their operations. A shift to intense propaganda operations may also be a good option in the aftermath of incidents whose shock value can be capitalized on in order to achieve paradigm shifts in the thought processes of key sectors of the public. Examples of the latter would include mass expulsions and pogroms, such as at Gush Katif and Amona, as well as spectacular direct actions by the cell or other guerrilla cells, such as poison gas attacks, assassination of prominent enemies of the Jewish People or infrastructure attacks leading to massive effects, such as a nationwide blackout.
Once the mission has been determined in general terms, it must be formulated into a single statement answering the Five Questions of Who, What, Where, How and Why. For example: “We will cause a blackout in Gaza by destroying the power lines leading there, in order to emphasize that the Israelis supply electricity to their Hamas allies” or “We will blow up the trucks waiting to enter Gaza in order to interdict the flow of Israeli supplies and emphasize to the Jewish People that the Israelis are continuously supplying their Hamas allies with food and war materiel.” This is the Tentative Mission Statement.
If it is not possible to sum up the mission in a single sentence like the examples above, or if the resultant Tentative Mission Statement fails to answer one of the Five Questions, then there is something wrong with the mission being proposed. Either it is not specific enough, or it lacks a well defined purpose, etc. In all such cases, one must re-think the proposed mission and revise/refine one’s ideas until a proper Tentative Mission Statement can be formed.
Once the mission has been determined and a Tentative Mission Statement formulated, the next step is to analyze the mission. Mission analysis is conducted by considering the factors of Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops Available, Time and Civilian bystanders. These factors can be summarized in the acronym METT-TC
From this we can understand that the first step is to examine the mission itself and determine all the large-scale tasks that must be accomplished in order to carry it out. For example, if the mission is a bombing, one must obtain or manufacture the explosives, construct the bomb, deliver the bomb, place the bomb, detonate the bomb, observe the effects, produce propaganda and deliver the propaganda. As each major task is elucidated, one should write it down and make a general outline of how it will be accomplished. There is no need to go into detail at this point. It is sufficient to note down things like “Yossi will make the explosives”, “Isaac will build the bomb”, “Shimon will detonate the bomb by radio” and so forth. The details will be fleshed out later in the planning process. In many cases, the details can in fact be left to the persons responsible for the task, with the cell leader simply receiving a brief explanation of how the person tasked with the task plans to accomplish it. The cell leader must, however, insist on a coherent explanation and pay careful attention to it in order to ensure that the cell member tasked with the specific action can in fact accomplish the action (i.e. that his method of doing so makes sense and will not interfere with the larger mission).
Once the specified tasks for the mission are determined, one must examine them to determine what implied tasks flow from them. For example, the task “manufacture explosives” obviously includes the implied task “get explosives precursors”, which in itself includes several implied subtasks. How far down the hierarchy of tasks one goes depends on the cell. If cell members are experienced warriors who have carried out this type of mission many times before, many implied tasks can be left unstated, since those assigned with the “big” task will already know that they must accomplish all the “little” tasks implied by it. This is also generally the situation where the cell leader can leave the details to his subordinates. On the other hand, a new mission or an inexperienced cell requires a more detailed task analysis.
The initial listing of tasks will, inevitably, include some tasks that, upon examination, will prove to be nonessential. It is therefore important to go through the list of tasks several times to ensure that all the nonessential tasks are separated from the essential, so that essential tasks can be given priority.
Essential tasks are, of course, tasks that absolutely must be accomplished in order for the mission to succeed, whereas nonessential tasks may be important, but if they are not carried out, the mission can go forward regardless, although its execution may be hampered in some manner. For example, obtaining the explosives for a bomb is obviously an essential task for a bombing. On the other hand, obtaining firearms for the bomb delivery team may be an important task, but it is not an essential one, since the cell members delivering the device will certainly be properly disguised in order to blend into the target area and operate therein without arousing suspicion.
The next item to consider is the enemy. One must consider what is known about the enemy and what one must discover about the enemy in order to proceed with the mission. Generally these considerations involve the enemy’s capacity to interfere with the mission and his probable reactions to events as the mission unfolds. Example questions include:
- How does the enemy operate in the target area? If they patrol, what is their patrol schedule? If they have fixed guard posts, where are the guard posts? If they patrol once a day, obviously there are implications. If they patrol every fifteen minutes, the implications change.
- How are the enemy forces equipped? If the enemy operates in unarmored police cars, he obviously has different capabilities from an enemy who operates in tracked armored vehicles. One must pay careful attention to questions of enemy firepower, communications and sensor capacity. An enemy operating from tracked vehicles equipped with advanced thermal imaging systems may be able to see better at night than during the day, may be able to see through light vegetation such as sparse bushes and so forth.
- How will enemy forces react to the mission? Will they open fire in all directions? Will they call for reinforcements? If they call for reinforcements, how fast can reinforcements arrive? What route will the reinforcements take?”
- What is the morale of different enemy forces? Which ones will run at the first shot and which ones will fight hard? Which ones will investigate something suspicious right away and which ones would rather avoid investigating suspicious things for fear of bumping into trouble?
- What are the enemy’s weaknesses?
Obviously, the exact questions to ask about the enemy will vary depending on the specific mission and the specific situation the cell finds itself in. For example, if the mission is to kill the enemy’s police and one knows that the enemy in the area consists of lazy policemen who like to park their patrol cars in the shade and drink coffee for hours on end, it obviously behooves one to discover where in the area the police tend to park. It is important to ask oneself whether all of the enemy forces have been considered. For example, has one considered the local Ishmaelites? What about the police? What about the Border Police? What about the Army?
A careful consideration of the enemy from the point of view of the mission will elucidate Key Questions that must be answered before the mission can proceed.
The next item to consider is Terrain. Terrain analysis must consider observation and fields of fire in the target area, cover and concealment, obstacles to movement and communication (e.g. places where enemy radios will not work due to tall buildings and/or overhead power lines), key terrain control of which gives significant advantages (e.g. the intersection of the major roads in the area) and, last but not least, avenues of approach within the target area. Each of these must be considered from both one’s own point of view and also the enemy’s. At this stage, it is not necessary to go into great detail, but one must note things like the key intersections the enemy will seek to control in order to cordon off the area after a bombing, the locations where enemy reaction forces like to park, the avenues of approach whereby one can easily get in and out of the area, the times of day when large traffic jams make certain routes impassable and so forth.
Of special importance is cover and concealment. While in conventional military operations this generally means no more than identifying the places where there are bushes to sneak through and trees to duck behind for cover from enemy fire, in the world of the urban guerrilla things get far more complex. One must consider the population in the target area and determine how to blend in with them so that one does not stand out in the crowd. It is important to note how they dress, how they walk, talk and so forth. In some cases, one will come to the realization that one should significantly modify one’s appearance in order to blend in. For example, a certain group of Jewish freedom fighters who tried to bomb an indoctrination facility for Ishmaelite breeding stock about a decade ago would have had far better chances of success if they had bothered to ask themselves whether a car with Jewish license plates and two obviously dati Jews inside, towing a large trailer, would really blend in to an Arab neighborhood of Yerushalayim in the middle of the night.
The next item to consider are one’s own Troops, i.e. the cell members. One must determine whether the cell members are up to the tasks at hand. Does the cell possess the necessary skills? Are the necessary supplies available? What knowledge, skills and materiel must be acquired in order to make the mission possible? What is the morale of the cell? Who is diligent and will carry out the assigned task well and who is impulsive and must be closely supervised? If in the course of considering these questions one discovers, for example, that a certain cell member known for impulsive behavior has been assigned the task of, say, quietly stealing weapons from a group of IDF kapos, it behooves one to reconsider things. If, say, our impulsive cell member decides to shoot the kapos dead and take their weapons instead of waiting until they fall asleep in their jeep and quietly making off with the rifles, will this bring undue enemy attention? And, if so, should this task be assigned to someone else or should someone with a cool head be placed in a position where he can closely control our impulsive hothead during this part of the mission?
Time, of course, is a critical item to consider. Does one have the time to accomplish everything that must be accomplished to carry out the mission? As a general rule, the urban guerrilla does not work to a rigid deadline. Nonetheless, there may be deadlines to certain missions. For example, a certain high ranking enemy officer may be vulnerable for only a short period of time. In other cases, the mission itself must take place at a specific time of day or on a specific significant date. When considering the time, one must start at the deadline and plan backward, remembering that, as a rule, at most 1/3 of the available time must be spent on planning and 2/3 must be used for execution of various tasks. If one has subordinates who will be making sub-plans of their own, one must give one’s subordinates 2/3 of the available time to plan and execute, taking no more than 1/3 of the available time to develop one’s own plan.
The final item to consider are Civilian bystanders. In the environment of the Holy Land, civilians can be defined as those Jews who are part of neither the Resistance nor the Israeli security forces and who do not aid and abet the Israelis’ Ishmaelite allies. One must carefully consider whether the mission will endanger civilians and, if so, whether this is acceptable. As a general rule, one should take every precaution in order not to endanger those Jews who are not endangering themselves by closely associating with the enemy. Thus, for example, deaths and injuries among Jews shopping in an Ishmaelite souk are, as a rule, acceptable, whereas deaths and injuries among Jews shopping at a store where strict Avodah Ivrit is practiced are generally not acceptable.
Mission analysis will produce a list of tasks matched to a list of responsible cell members. It will also produce a set of Key Questions to be answered before the mission can be fully planned and a list of Abort Criteria the presence of which will cause the mission planning and execution process to be aborted.
Once the mission has been determined and a rough mission outline exists, it is time to issue a warning order to cell members who need to know the mission.
Step 2: Issue a Warning Order
A warning order is nothing more than a notice to personnel who will be involved in the mission. It contains the tentative mission statement and the rough outline of the mission, along with the task breakdown. The warning order also contains any other information that may be useful to the mission, such as the number and locations of enemy guards, the key dimensions of high-voltage power line towers to be blown up (e.g. the thickness of the steel in the tower legs), etc.
In some cases, the order itself may be compartmentalized, with select individuals receiving only those parts of the order that pertain to them, such as a list of tasks to perform and a set of deadlines to perform them. This is often done when associate members or probationary members are involved in the operation, when enemy infiltration of the cell is suspected, when the mission is especially sensitive or when the cell leader feels that a specific cell member would not be fully committed to the mission if he knows its full scope.
The warning order should be disseminated in a secure, clandestine manner, for example orally via face to face conversation in a secure location. If dissemination in written form is required, it is preferable to encrypt or somehow disguise the message in case it falls into enemy hands. All written messages must be destroyed (i.e. burned to white ash, broken up and scattered or else erased via secure electronic shredding if they are in electronic form) as soon as the necessity of keeping them has passed.
The key question to answer during the dissemination of the warning order is: “Who needs to know?” Persons who have no part in planning, preparations or execution of the mission do not need to know. Since a secret is best kept the fewer persons know it, it is important to control the dissemination of the warning order.
Step 3: Begin Reconnaissance
In this step, the cell undertakes the first concrete actions toward the furtherance of the Tentative Mission. Reconnaissance is an absolutely crucial step, so much so that the vast majority of mission failures can be attributed to reconnaissance failure in some form.
In order to carry out successful reconnaissance, one must follow the Fundamentals of Reconnaissance. These are:
- Maintain reconnaissance focus and tempo – reconnaissance is carried out primarily in order to answer the Key Questions developed when the mission was determined and in order to confirm or deny whether Abort Criteria have been met. Therefore, cell members tasked with reconnaissance must focus their efforts on answering the Key Questions and not permit themselves to be distracted or act impulsively. For example, one may have to maintain a friendly demeanor and chat pleasantly with Israeli kapos even though one wishes nothing more than to rip them limb from limb. One may have to ignore enemy atrocities and brutality and restrain oneself from coming to the aid of the victims, and so forth. In terms of maintaining tempo, most urban guerrilla operations do not have a fixed deadline for execution, therefore, the timeline for reconnaissance is generally relaxed. However, there should always be a timeline of some sort and it should be adhered to, even if it is generally as vague as “find out the following by the end of the month…”. The discipline developed in keeping to a timeline during simple missions where timelines are relaxed will enable the cell members to undertake difficult missions where timelines are often stringent.
- Orient on the reconnaissance objective – cell members tasked with reconnaissance will generally be given specific objectives to reconnoiter, such as certain buildings or areas. The cell members must focus on these objectives until the Key Questions are answered or until Abort Criteria are met. If, as often happens, the cell member notices a target of opportunity while conducting reconnaissance of the primary target, he can by all means reconnoiter the target of opportunity, but only after he is done getting the information he came to the area to get in the first place. The only time when this is not the case is when the opportunity is fleeting and the target is of very high value.
- Retain freedom of maneuver – cell members tasked with reconnaissance must blend in well into the environment around them and must take care not to place themselves into a position where they cannot readily escape or where their true identity may be revealed. In order to retain freedom of maneuver while conducting reconnaissance, cell members may have to significantly modify their appearance. Cell members conducting reconnaissance of specific targets must take care to have a cover story for their activities. For example, a couple disguised as tourists may take photographs of an enemy facility by pretending to pose for pictures, with the facility in the background. It is often necessary to hand off parts of the reconnaissance between members of the cell. For example, one generally cannot loiter in front of a house that belongs to a high-ranking target, nor can one trail high-value targets for long without detection unless the trailing is done by a team of cell members who hand the target off to one another so that no one cell member is trailing the target for long, thus ensuring that the trailing team blends in seamlessly into urban traffic. Another important thing to note is that in most target areas there are various categories of “invisible” persons, that is persons whose presence is taken for granted with no further thought given to their actions. Examples of such are street vendors, taxi drivers, household servants, street cleaners, window washers, and so forth. Often great benefit can be derived from adopting the appearance of “invisible” persons when performing reconnaissance.
- Gain and maintain contact with the enemy – enemy forces in the area are often a key consideration for the mission. Therefore, it is generally important to determine their strength and distribution in the area and to maintain awareness of the enemy’s actions at all times.
- Report all information rapidly and accurately – the point of reconnaissance is to obtain information and deliver it to the cell leader so it can be used in planning the mission. Obviously, information must be reported accurately and critical information must be reported rapidly. This having been said, cell members must not endanger themselves in the course of reporting, since once the enemy becomes aware of the presence of a scout he can cause great harm to the cell in a variety of ways, either by tracking the scout in order to reveal his associates or by capturing and torturing the scout in order to obtain information. Special care should be exercised when using electronic means of reporting, since the enemy is especially strong in the area of electronic warfare.
- Develop the situation — in the course of reconnaissance, opportunities to discover more information, obtain access to additional target areas and so forth will arise unpredictably. Scouts must have cool heads on their shoulders and must take advantage of opportunities as these present themselves. For example, one may begin a romantic relationship with a target’s maid in order to obtain access to the target’s house. Other examples of developing the situation are cases where the scouts are tasked with determining enemy standing operating procedures in response to some event, for example upon encountering an IED. In this case, the scouts may plant a dummy IED or even a real IED in the open in order to observe enemy actions. In some cases, such activity may turn into a snap attack, for example if the enemy fails to detect the IED or if the objective is to determine enemy response to casualties (e.g. a visible IED is planted where the enemy will see it, while a well camouflaged IED is planted where the enemy will put his standoff cordon. When the enemy sees the obvious IED and tries to cordon it off, the hidden IED is detonated and enemy response is observed). The precise balance between developing the situation and retaining freedom of maneuver depends, of course, on the mission, the situation and the skill of the scouts.
It is important to note that while the mission planning and execution process may move on, reconnaissance will often continue nonetheless, in the form of long-term surveillance. This is generally done in order to ensure that the cell is not caught flat-footed by changing circumstances or new enemy procedures. For example, if the enemy is known to periodically change his patrol schedule or patrol routes, it is often a good idea to keep up surveillance of a target area in order to keep track of these changes.
Step 4: Develop a Tentative Plan
Once reconnaissance has delivered sufficient information to complete the plan, the task breakdown developed when the mission is first analyzed is fleshed out with pertinent details. For example, the task “Yossi will make the explosives” may transform into “Yossi will make ten kilograms of blasting gelatin and twenty blasting caps by this Shabbat.”
One must always strive to make the plan as simple as possible. The more complex the plan, the more things can go wrong with it and the less likely the cell members are to correctly remember their parts in it under the stress of combat. On the other hand, if the plan is TOO simple, there may be a part missing (e.g. And how do we get the explosives through a snap checkpoint?)
When developing the plan one should develop the most important parts first, then move on to the less important ones. For a marighella cell, the most important part of the mission is escaping to strike again. Therefore, great care must be taken when planning how the escape will take place, with extra attention paid to routes, timing, obstacles and distracters designed to provide cover for the escape and keep the enemy forces occupied, etc. Other items to pay careful attention to are abort conditions, signals to use in the event of an abort and actions to be taken in response to these signals.
Once the escape is carefully planned, one should move backwards through the plan to actions on the objective (e.g. the exact mechanics of blowing up the power lines, like who places what explosives where, who arms what devices, who gives what signals, what happens if there is an enemy patrol coming, etc). After the actions on the objective are planned out, one moves on to planning the details of securing the objective (e.g. emplacement of security teams to provide warning and ambush enemy forces) and then the details of getting to the objective in the first place (e.g. who is in what car, where the cars come from, the issue of license plates, etc). Finally, with everything else fleshed out, one plans out the logistics and preparations (e.g. who makes the explosives, what kind and how much, etc). After this, one plans out the exploitation phase of the mission (e.g. who makes the propaganda, who distributes it, what kind of propaganda it will be, etc).
In order to verify that the fleshed-out plan is complete, it is generally a good idea to cast it in the form of a military six-paragraph mission order covering the following items:
- Covered here are relevant details of terrain, weather, enemy forces, friendly forces, civilian bystanders and so forth. If the cell is operating at the direction of a higher cell, this paragraph also includes the mission and mission intent of the higher cell.
- This is a single sentence covering the all-important question of When as well as the Five Questions of Who, What, Where, Why and How. For example, the mission may be “At 2100 hours this motzei Shabbat we will cause a blackout in Gaza by destroying the power lines leading there, in order to emphasize that the Israelis supply electricity to their Hamas allies.”
- This paragraph begins by stating the mission intent, which is the most important part of the mission. When all else fails and the plan goes out the window, the mission intent is what guides the cell members as they struggle to complete the mission despite the obstacles before them. Therefore, every member of the cell involved in the operation must know the mission intent by heart. For the mission statement above, the mission intent is very simple: “blow up the power lines to Gaza”. In general, the intent must be kept to a single short phrase, so that it may be remembered under the stress of combat, understood clearly and therefore followed.Following the mission intent is a narrative describing the mission. This should be a simple description of how the mission is supposed to go. For example: “Yossi will make the demolition charges by Shabbat. We will meet at 1800 motzaei Shabbat at Yosi’s house. We will get into the cars. We will drive to the power lines on the following route… The scout car will… The security team will get out at the intersection of… Avi will film the action from…”. When formulating the narrative section, flaws in the plan are often revealed. Generally, if the narrative does not make sense, there is something wrong with the plan. After one describes how the mission is supposed to go, one should go back and cover significant contingencies in separate sub-paragraphs, such as “If there is a military checkpoint on the road, the scout car will…”, “If one of the cars breaks down we will…”
- Following the narrative is the task breakdown for the mission, with each participating member given his tasks, as well as a purpose and intent for each task. A sample task may be: “Set up an ambush up the road from the power lines”, accompanied by a purpose of: “Provide security for bomb emplacement team” and an intent of: “Stop anyone from coming down the road and provide timely warning if cannot stop them”. Armed with this intent, the persons charged with the task are able to improvise in difficult circumstances. For example, if a two-person team armed with submachineguns spots a couple of tanks coming down the road, they may stop the enemy patrol not by uselessly firing pistol caliber bullets at it but by staging a car breakdown that blocks the road and asking the tank crews for help. While the enemy patrol deals with the distraction, the forewarned main effort may either abort the mission and leave or finish planting the explosives.
- Following the task breakdown is a mission timeline showing all significant deadlines. Often, the task breakdown may be combined with the timeline into an execution matrix.
- Following the timeline are any special instructions, such as actions to take in the event of capture of a cell member, actions to take on mission abort and actions to take in response to various contingencies.
- Logistics and Support
- Covered in this paragraph are various logistical details, such as amounts and types of explosives to make and who makes them, communications devices to procure and who procures them, locations of pre-emplaced caches and the items to be drawn from them, the food and water to be taken on the mission and where it comes from, etc. This paragraph may also address the actions and responsibilities of supporting cell members who are not involved in the execution of the decisive phases of the mission, such as doctors tasked with preparing to receive potential wounded, associates tasked with creating distractions of various kinds or otherwise hampering enemy forces, or persons tasked with buying or otherwise procuring vital supplies.
- Command and Signal
- Covered in this paragraph is a reiteration of various signals and what they signify, for example: “If the scout car is sitting on the side of the road with the hood up, all is clear. If not, there is a checkpoint ahead.”
- Also covered in this paragraph is the succession of command, e.g. “If I get killed, Yossi is in charge, if Yossi is killed, Avi is in charge…”
- This paragraph addresses the details of how the effects of the mission will be assessed and who will do what in order to assess them, how the propaganda footage and such are to be captured and consolidated, who is responsible for producing what propaganda materials and the who, what, when, where, why and how of propaganda distribution related to the mission. In general, this paragraph should be simple because most exploitation will be a well practiced routine. However, for some operations it may become almost as elaborate as the execution paragraph. If one finds the exploitation paragraph growing out of control, it is important to stop and assess whether such elaborate exploitation is within the capabilities of the cell and, if so, if it would not be better to split it off into a separate spin-off mission.
Once there is a mostly complete tentative plan, one is ready to proceed further.
Step 5: Begin Necessary Preparations
Even as the plan is being developed, and potentially even before the reconnaissance begins, preparations may be ongoing. However, many things cannot be prepared until the plan is fleshed out. For example, the weight of explosive in each shaped cutting charge is not something that one can know until one knows the dimensions of the high voltage power line towers to bring down. The total weight of explosives to prepare, in turn, cannot be known until one knows what each charge will look like and how many towers will be brought down. The primary and back-up detonation methods may be known in advance because they are part of the cell’s standing operating procedures (e.g. a mechanical arming safety timer and a radio detonator with two chemical pencils for backup). But the exact number of timers, radio detonators and chemical pencils to prepare cannot be known until one knows the number of explosive systems to be assembled, and so forth. Therefore, once there is a tentative plan for the mission, the cell leader must ensure that necessary preparations, logistical, training and so forth, begin in earnest. In fact, even if some parts of the plan are still nebulous, once it is clear that a certain task is definitely needed, necessary preparations for it may begin immediately.
Step 6: Complete Reconnaissance
During the development of the tentative plan, some additional questions may arise. Even if none do, it behooves the cell leader to ensure that everything at the target area remains the same as assumed in the plan. Therefore, it may be necessary to perform additional reconnaissance or to double check with cell members who have been tasked with continuous surveillance of the target area to ensure that nothing has changed. Since the typical marighella cell can rarely afford even a single mistake, it pays to be thorough. Special attention should be paid to the primary avenue(s) of escape as well as to any secondary avenues of escape called out in the mission contingencies.
Even after final reconnaissance is complete, surveillance of the target area, and especially of the objective, may continue. This is especially true with difficult missions and well-guarded targets. In many cases, the team members tasked with surveillance become part of the security team once the mission execution phase is underway. In other cases, they may be handed a subsidiary task such as planting IEDs to cover the main effort’s escape, to distract enemy forces or to cause additional casualties among enemy first responders in the aftermath of the main attack. Another task such members may be charged with is observing the aftermath of the attack and/or filming the attack for propaganda purposes. In the environment of the Holy Land it would be particularly useful for such cell members to obtain press credentials, as the presence of reporters in the immediate aftermath of an attack is not unusual (i.e. people with “PRESS” and “TV” vests and cameras are often in the category of “invisible persons”). The best scout to observe the aftermath of a mission is often a cell member who is legitimately employed as a stringer for a news organization, perhaps even one known for pathological antisemitism, such as the BBC.
Once final reconnaissance is complete, one is ready to complete the plan.
Step 7: Complete the Plan
In this step, the cell leader updates the tentative plan with any newly obtained information and revises any areas that need revising. At this stage, it is often helpful to bring in one or several trusted cell members known for competence and creativity, such as, for example, the cell’s second in command. The job of any such members is to provide a critical look at the plan and poke holes in it so that it can be improved. It is also often helpful to wargame the plan step by step, for example by moving counters on a sand table and talking through the actions of both the cell and external agents (e.g. the enemy, bystanders, etc) at each step in the plan. In wargames, one of the more creative cell members should play the part of the enemy commander. His job is to try to foil the plan by creating enemy actions that may hamper its various steps (e.g. placing a checkpoint on the road to the target area). The cell member tasked with being the enemy should not overdo things and bring in knowledge the enemy is unlikely to have (e.g. the exact make and model of the scout car). Nonetheless, he should be aggressive and clever, preferably more so than the enemy is likely to be in practice. At a minimum, three enemy courses of action should be considered, these being the most likely enemy course of action, the most dangerous enemy course of action and a course of action somewhere between the two.
Once the plan is complete, it should be written out in a clean manner and all drafts, working papers and other unnecessary items of potentially incriminating evidence should be thoroughly destroyed. Once again, a paper is not destroyed until it has been burned to white ash, reduced to powder and scattered or flushed down a drain. Electronic items are not erased until they have been electronically shredded using an appropriate high-security algorithm.
Once a final copy of the plan is ready, it is time to brief the plan.
Step 8: Brief the Plan to Relevant Cell Members
In this step, the cell leader briefs those cell members who need to know the plan or parts thereof. This is best done by gathering all relevant persons in one secure location and going over the plan (i.e. the mission order) or whatever part of it is being revealed, using a sand table or similar representation (a kitchen table with various cups, matchboxes, cigarettes and miscellaneous food items to stand for various things will do just fine). If it is not possible for reasons of operational security or for some other reason to gather all the relevant members in one place, the plan may be briefed separately to some members.
At no time should the plan be briefed electronically if it can at all be avoided. If it is not possible to avoid disseminating information electronically, at the very least strong encryption should be used. If the use of strong encryption will in itself attract attention and things are truly desperate, it may be possible to rely on coded language. It is also important, if electronic dissemination is used, to use throwaway or highly anonymous means, such as throwaway email addresses or the boards of an online RCC, whenever possible. Given the enemy’s enormous strength in technical intelligence, the author must once again emphasize that electronic dissemination of parts of a sensitive mission order is the action of absolute last resort.
In many cases some cell members, such as associate or probationary members, may not be given the full plan but only briefed on a set of tasks they are to perform, such as driving on a certain road to a certain location and, if they encounter no checkpoint, turning around and parking at some location on the side of the road. Another case where this may happen is when there is no way to avoid briefing a cell member electronically. In this case, it is better to only give the cell member a task and a time, without divulging the full plan.
In some cases it may be possible to actually brief the plan while travelling around the target area. For example, the cell leader may take the step of driving a few key cell members around the area while describing to them who will do what, where and when. While this is an excellent way to brief the narrative portion of the plan, care must be taken not to arouse suspicion. At all times, the cell members must have a plausible and well rehearsed cover story for their activities. It is even better if the cover story is actually true (e.g. you really are traveling to the yeshiva).
During the briefing, subordinates will often develop questions. This is a normal thing. The cell leader should welcome it. In some cases, the questions will point out previously unconsidered contingencies or add useful options to the plan. However, while the leader should carefully answer all questions and may even make minor modifications to the plan during the briefing, at some point he may have to invoke his authority as leader and insist on specific items and actions. There comes a point at which The Best is the enemy of Good Enough. If preparations have advanced far enough, new “good ideas” may actually be harmful. It is up to the leader to determine when this point has been reached. It is also up to him whether the cell members are free to ask questions throughout the brief or if they are to hold all questions until the end.
Once the plan has been briefed, the cell leader should ensure that key cell members are clear on the tasks they are to perform by asking them what the mission is and what they are supposed to do to further it. Every cell member assigned a critical task must be able to intelligently describe his part in the mission in his own words. This is known as the brief-back.
After the plan is briefed and brief-backs are complete, the next step is to proceed to rehearsals. However, before one proceeds, it is important to ensure that operational security is maintained. Cell members must account for all notes taken during the briefing and for all written copies of the plan. If the cell will not remain in the same location and use the sand table for the rehearsals, it should be sterilized (i.e. cleared). Obviously this is a lot easier to do when the plan is briefed on a kitchen table using dishes and food items. Such a sand table may even be left unattended in a secure location for a short time (after all, who knows that the wine bottles are the high voltage towers and the matchbox is the scout car?). Nonetheless, if one is leaving for good it should be cleared.
Step 9: Rehearse
At the absolute minimum, the plan must be rehearsed on a sand table or by walk-through. The latter is a method where a simple representation of the target area and other key features is laid out on the ground. The cell members responsible for various parts of the mission physically walk on the representation and describe their actions during the mission.
In some cases, it may be possible to perform a live rehearsal of the mission. In this case, the rehearsal takes place on the very ground where the mission is to take place. The various key cell members travel around the area and describe what they will do during the mission. While this is the best possible rehearsal technique, it is only very rarely an option for the more complicated missions, since it is very difficult to move about a typical target area and simulate mission actions without using electronic communications or otherwise attracting attention.
Other items to rehearse are key tasks (e.g. emplacing and arming the demolition charge) and contingencies (e.g. what to do if there is a checkpoint on the road to the target area).
It is important to note that rehearsals are an absolutely vital part of the process. Inevitably during the rehearsal, it will be discovered that somebody misunderstood part of the mission or that something is not clear. In some cases, only during the walk-through will it become apparent that a required item is missing (e.g. How does the security team tell the main effort what’s going on after the arming safety timers are running, given that we have walkie-talkies for communications but our explosives are also triggered by walkie-talkie, with no DTMF boards on the triggers, because Shmuly screwed up making the darned things? [Note for the uninitiated: radio devices always produce interference, to which simple radio triggers may be highly sensitive] How does the scout car indicate that he has a Shabak agent holding him at gunpoint to compel him to give the all clear?).
It is no exaggeration to say that thorough rehearsals are key to a successful mission.
Once rehearsals are complete, it is time to execute the plan.
Step 10: Execute the Plan
The first step in executing the plan is inspecting all your gear. For this, it is best to assemble in some secure location, pull everything out and double-check it. For small missions or small cells, the leader may check everything personally. For larger missions and larger cells, the leader should spot-check the most critical items, with subordinate leaders checking the rest, each for their team. For a really small cell or if time is pressing, the members can also pair up and check each other’s gear. Whatever problem is discovered is fixed on the spot. If it cannot be fixed, the cell leader makes the decision to either go ahead regardless or abort.
While there is always temptation to skip this step, especially if everything has been checked already and the cell has done this kind of mission a hundred times before, this temptation must be avoided. The inspection is the time to discover that, say, a battery that was supposed to power one of the charges is kaput or that two of the chemical pencils are cracked because Avi didn’t pack them properly and managed to crush the f-ing homemade things with his f-ing submachinegun when he tossed his bag into the boot of the car.
The highly unpleasant alternative in our first example is to discover the same thing when one of the charges fails to go off, leaving enemy investigators with a veritable bonanza of clues. In our second example, the highly unpleasant alternative to a proper inspection is for the chemical pencils to go off en route to the target and set fire to the demo bag in Avi’s lap. If Hashem is merciful, Avi might have the quick thinking to open the car door and toss his demo bag out before it explodes. Which would only leave you evading hot pursuit in a car scarred by shrapnel and the mission a total wash. This sort of thing makes for a great war story many years later over a couple of beers but, singed genitals and soiled pants and all, it is not in the least bit funny when it happens.
Once the inspection is complete, the execution phase of the mission begins. It is safe to say that, unless your enemy is an utter idiot and Hashem is making revealed wonders and miracles on your behalf, the mission will NOT go according to plan. Throughout the mission, every cell member must pay attention to what is going on around him. Nobody should be going in to the execution phase expecting things to go exactly according to plan. However, everybody should be going into the execution phase confident that he (or she) knows exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it. When the unexpected happens, the cell will be saved by eight things – initiative, firm knowledge of the mission intent, good contingency plans, thorough rehearsals, prior training, quick thinking, large brass cojones and the mercy of Hashem. Note that the cell members have total control of the first five. This is the point of all the steps that lead you to mission execution.
All this having been said, the most difficult decision to make may often be the decision to abort and try again later. By this point, especially in a newly formed cell, everyone will be raring off to bash on regardless, no matter what. It is up to the cell leader to keep a cool head, keep his abort criteria in the back of his mind and to remember that, with a few rare exceptions, the most important part of every mission is that the cell survive to strike again.
Once the execution phase of the mission is complete, the mission is NOT over. Once the cell has carried out any serious action, there are results to exploit. If they go unexploited, the mission is probably a failure. Which brings us to the last step.
Step 11 Exploit the Results
The exploitation of mission results has two basic components. The first is to learn from the mission one has conducted, both from the successes and the failures. The second is to use the successes to spread the message of the movement, while hiding the failures from the public or turning the tactical/operational failures into propaganda successes.
In order to learn from the mission, the cell should conduct an After Action Review of the mission as soon as possible after it is complete, while details of what happened are still fresh in everyone’s mind. The purpose of the review is not to cast blame or to apportion guilt. Nor is it to boast of prowess and success. The purpose is to dispassionately review the mission and learn from it, regardless of what happened. For example, if Avi almost got himself and half the cell killed because his demo bag caught fire, no purpose is served in calling Avi a moron. His singed genitalia are sufficient reminder of his stupidity in this case. The lessons one should derive from such an experience are that (a) homemade pencil detonators should be treated with care and (b) weapons, demolitions and communications gear absolutely MUST be inspected prior to the mission no matter what. Since the key portions of the mission will likely be videotaped for use in propaganda, the review should take advantage of the raw footage, especially of the “bloopers” that will certainly never make it into the propaganda video.
The review should be conducted in a secure location where members can speak freely without fear of discovery. It should be led by a person of authority within the cell. Typically but not always, this person is the cell leader. All cell members should be reminded at the beginning of the review that the purpose is not to cast blame or to boast but to learn from the mission in a dispassionate manner. The participants should also be reminded that during the review all should speak their mind freely, but within the boundaries of respect for one another. Should a blame game argument develop, the leader should terminate it immediately by reminding everyone involved that they are not conducting the AAR in order to bicker.
The review should begin with the leader asking various participants to describe what happened during the mission from their point of view. The purpose of this is to establish who heard and saw what during the mission and to produce a common understanding of what actually happened. Sometimes the participants’ points of view will be radically different from one another. An understanding of why this happened (e.g. communications failure between teams) will generally yield valuable lessons.
Once a common understanding of the mission has been established, the leader should ask various members to name one or two things from the mission execution that should be sustained and one or two things that need improvement. The list of lessons from the mission that results from this round-robin discussion should be summarized by the leader at the conclusion of the review. These lessons should be saved for latter use in some secure, easily destroyed form, and incorporated into training.
Upon conclusion of the After Action Review, all notes and other potentially incriminating evidence produced during the process (e.g. sketches of what happened) should be carefully destroyed unless they are designated for latter use, for example in training or in the planning of future missions.
As the cell accumulates experience, it will begin to establish set ways of doing business. Examples of these Standing Operating Procedures are methods of procuring supplies, methods of preparing explosives, methods of attacking the enemy, methods of producing propaganda, and so forth. Whether the cell chooses to write these down in some kind of handbook or not is up to the cell members. The advantages of a written Standing Operating Procedure is that it can be referred to during mission planning and training. Some of the more generic procedures, such as recipes for preparing rockets and explosives, can be shared with other cells via RCCs, benefitting the movement as a whole. The disadvantages are that a “terrorist handbook” is yet another piece of potentially incriminating evidence and that should the enemy succeed in obtaining a copy of the handbook somehow, it may give him a substantial operational advantage. Therefore, if a cell chooses to develop a written handbook, it should be guarded very closely. In the modern world, strongly encrypted documentation on various portable electronic devices may be the best way to store it.
The second and most important part of exploiting the mission results is to produce and disseminate propaganda. The specific form the propaganda takes depends on the mission and on the goals of the cell. It can be as simple as a claim of responsibility delivered by contacting the press or as complex as a slick music video. The specific details are up to the cell itself. However, cell members should remember that the goal of propaganda is viral dissemination. Therefore, propaganda should be closely tailored to the audience. Note also that, since Israel exercises total control over the press within the country, the more traditional means of propaganda, such as flyers left at the site of the attack, are essentially useless. The only thing such flyers do is lead the Israeli police to those who distributed them. The public generally never sees nor hears them. Therefore, propaganda is best created and disseminated electronically, via foreign media and sites such as Flix, Lulu, Facebook, YouTube, etc. The other thing to remember about propaganda is that some operations are simply impossible to hush up. This applies especially to high impact attacks against infrastructure and to attacks against persons of some prominence, such as leaders of hostile political movements, famous enemy ideologues, hostile newspaper columnists of note, etc. In the case of such operations, a claim of responsibility will always be disseminated and various propaganda pieces related to it can often achieve viral dissemination because the public finds the subject to be interesting.
Readers are encouraged to review the Self-Liberation 101 supplement on propaganda in order to learn more about this vital component of operations.
In this lesson, we learned about the Eleven Steps to Victory. They are:
- Determine and analyze the mission
- Issue a warning order
- Begin reconnaissance
- Develop a tentative plan
- Begin necessary preparations
- Complete reconnaissance
- Complete the plan
- Brief the plan to relevant cell members
- Execute the plan
- Exploit the results
These steps form the foundation of mission planning and mission execution for the marighella cell. While following the Eleven Steps appears complicated and involved on the surface, in reality, with practice, the process becomes very quick. If the mission is demanding in terms of time, some steps may be abbreviated. For example, one may perform only a hasty reconnaissance instead of a more detailed one. In extreme cases, some steps, such as rehearsals, may be omitted despite the risk this entails. A simple, hasty plan may not require casting in an orders format in order to develop and brief it. Obviously, if the cell consists of only two or three members and the mission is straightforward, 99% of the more complicated planning required by a larger cell is not needed. The steps are not a straightjacket, but rather a kind of doctrinal checklist that ensures that the cell takes care of all the items necessary to achieve success.
Now that we understand how missions are planned and executed and thus possess the foundation of marighella cell tactics, we can discuss specific types of operations and weapons. We will do this in the next lesson.