First: Muslim woman joins highly elite Israel Air Force rescue unit

Israel Materials 4 April 2008 18:35 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The Israel Air Force has for the first time in its history recruited a Muslim to an elite rescue unit, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

The young woman, who was not identified but who comes from an Arab village in northern Israel, currently serves as a medic in the Air Force's Unit 669, Yediot Ahronot reported.

To be accepted to the elite unit, candidates have to undergo the highest decree of security screening.

The Arab Israeli passed the screening partially due to a mistake, Yediot said.

But she was assigned to the top unit because she excelled in her medics course.

The commander was surprised to find a Muslim woman in his unit, but after seeking clarifications, insisted she stay because of her excellent performance, Yediot said.

Unit 669 is responsible for rescuing injured soldiers under fire, but takes part also in civilian rescue operations.

It participates in many of the Israeli military's most sensitive operations, and selection for it is therefore seen as extremely tough.

It is one of four top units in the Israeli military, which include also the Sayeret Matkal, an elite special forces reconnaissance unit, and Flotilla 13, a naval commando elite special forces unit.

While it is common for Druze Arab Israelis to serve in the Israeli army, it is highly unusual for Muslims, who are exempt from compulsory military service so as to not place them in a conflict of loyalties when fighting in the occupied Palestinian Territories or opposite Muslim enemy states.

On rare occasions, some Arab-Israeli Muslims nevertheless volunteer for military service.