The IDF’s Oketz canine unit will be used to assist soldiers in boarding Gaza-bound ships during future interceptions, a military source said on Thursday.

The decision followed intensive deliberations by military chiefs on how to improve boarding techniques following the bloody confrontation on board the Mavi Marmara ship on May 31, in which navy commandos were stabbed and beaten, and nine Turkish activists were killed.

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Boarding the ships has been identified by military planners as the most problematic stage in aid-ship interceptions, and the Oketz unit is seen as a promising solution.

Video footage provided by the IDF of the Mavi Marmara raid shows naval commandos being assaulted by multiple attackers immediately after descending from a helicopter.

In future operations, specially trained dogs will be placed on the ships first to ensure that naval commandos can safely board.

The incorporation of the canine unit will require dog trainers and their animals to train together with the commandos.

Oketz operates under the command of the IDF’s General Staff, and trains dogs to take part in counterterrorism missions, search and rescue tasks, and other specialized activities.

“The dogs are weapons in every sense – like snipers or tank shells – but they are biological weapons,” Yehida, an online military magazine, said in an article on the unit.

“They are animals that should be bonded with and trained for the missions they will face,” the magazine added.



During his August testimony before the Turkel Commission, set up to investigate the raid on the Mavi Marmara, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi hinted that snipers would be used in confrontations with ships carrying violent and armed individuals.

“The IDF uses a range of means to carry out its missions,” the IDF Spokesman Unit said.