HR group: 'IDF uses dogs to harass Palestinians'

Public C'tee against Torture in Israel allege 14 instances in which Palestinians abused, humiliated.

IDF dog-bite 298.88 (photo credit: Orly Halpern)
IDF dog-bite 298.88
(photo credit: Orly Halpern)
IDF soldiers are using dogs to attack and harass Palestinian civilians and detainees, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel (PCATI) charged in a letter sent earlier this week to Military Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblitt. Asked by The Jerusalem Post for a response to the letter, the IDF Spokesman replied, "The IDF has not yet received the letter from PCATI regarding this subject. If it does receive it, the army will examine and respond to it." According to the letter, written by attorney Ya'ara Kalmanowitz, the organization has received many complaints from Palestinians over the years regarding soldiers' use of dogs during and after detention. "Instead of using the trained dog to help soldiers on dangerous missions, soldiers exploit the loyal dog to attack civilians and detainees or to humiliate them," wrote Kalmanowitz. Oketz, the IDF K-9 special forces unit, was created to train dogs to attack kidnappers. Attack dogs are mostly used in cities, although they have proven effective in rural, bushy areas like in Lebanon. Tracking and chasing dogs are used for manhunts and detecting breaches at the borders, weapons-and-ammunition dogs search for their namesakes, as do explosives dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs are used to find people in collapsed buildings. Kalmanowitz called on Mandelblitt to "issue instructions to the IDF regarding the use of dogs and to determine clear rules and regulations that will prevent their use to torment [Palestinians] and guarantee that incidents like the ones mentioned in this letter will not be repeated." The letter alleged that soldiers have sent dogs into Palestinian homes without supervision, and the dogs have been known to attack the occupants. Soldiers also allegedly use dogs to deliberately hurt or humiliate Palestinians. According to one of 14 examples cited, soldiers arrived at a house in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus on December 19, 2005. Waiting outside, they sent a dog into the house, and it immediately began chasing one of the children, allegedly sinking its teeth into the thigh of one of them, Basel Dawad, and afterwards into his right wrist. The dog then dragged Dawad from the bedroom to the living room. Later, he was sent to Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus. Kalmanowitz said PCATI had photos of the wound. Ahmed Shehadeh, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp, was detained by soldiers on June 15, 2006. The letter quoted him as testifying that the soldiers handcuffed him behind his back, covered his eyes and took him to an olive grove. There, the soldiers allegedly beat him and two other suspects and unleashed a dog that bit him on the leg. An attorney for the High Court section of the State Attorney's Office, Gil Shirman, acknowledged that Shehadeh had been bitten on the leg by a dog, Kalmanowitz said.