28 April '11: Army set dogs on Palestinians trying to enter Israel to work without a permit

At least three people bitten in April, two additional cases are being investigated by B’Tselem

B'Tselem has written to the OC Central Command and to the judge advocate general, demanding that they immediately terminate the use of attack dogs against Palestinian workers who enter into Israel without permits. In the last month alone, at least three Palestinians were bitten as a result of the practice. B’Tselem is looking into two additional cases that raise serious suspicions that dogs attacked Palestinians who tried to cross the Separation Barrier.

In her letter, B’Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell writes: “This policy harms and terrifies those affected. It also contradicts Israeli and international law. Israel has the authority to control the entry of Palestinian into its territory and prevent harm to the barrier, but there are less harmful ways to achieve these goals”.

The incidents took place in the area of a-Ramadin, southwest of Hebron. Most of those injured attempted to enter Israel to work, and one, to receive medical treatment. Two of them were arrested by soldiers and remain in custody. In some of the cases, the laborers told B'Tselem that the dogs did not respond to their handlers’ order to stop, and the handlers had to use an electric-shock device to calm the dogs. In one case, the injured worker filed a complaint with the police and was arrested on suspicion of entering Israel illegally. He was released the following day.

According to a report on the Walla website the army confirmed that dogs from the army’s canine unit are used in making arrests, but stated that the dogs are only used against Palestinians who damage the fence and that prior approval is obtained in each case.

A policy of setting attack dogs at civilians is fundamentally unacceptable, and cannot be justified as an attempt to protect the fence. Furthermore, in the cases documented by B'Tselem, the soldiers apparently released the dogs at groups of Palestinian laborers attempting to cross the fence, and the dogs bit laborers who did not manage to flee, rather than specific suspects of damaging the fence. In one case, the Palestinians were attacked when they arrived at a break in the fence and before they tried to pass through.

The Cases

The first case B'Tselem knows of occurred on 9 April. M, a 20-year-old resident of a-Ramadin, and his friend tried to enter Israel to work. When they reached a break in the fence, a dog attacked him from behind, knocked him down, and bit him in the hip. When he tried to push the dog away, the dog bit him a few times. M also stated that, while fighting with the dog, a soldier filmed the incident on his cell phone. Soldiers then stunned the dog with an electric-shock device. The dog stopped the attack and his mouth was covered with a muzzle. The soldiers then gave M first-aid and took him to an army base, where a physician examined him. He was then taken to the Tarqumiya checkpoint and taken by Palestinian ambulance the government hospital in Hebron.

Two of the cases occurred the following day (10 April). Y, who is 22 and lives in a village next to a-Dhahiriya, was with a group of Palestinians trying to sneak into Israel. He told B'Tselem that, once on the other side of the fence, on his way to get into a car that would take him to his worksite in Israel, a dog jumped on him and bit him from behind and on his left hand. He managed to push the dog away and get into the waiting car, and they entered Israel. Later that day, he returned to the West Bank and went to the government hospital in Hebron, where the doctors found he had a torn tendon in one of his fingers. Three days later, when he went to the police station in Hebron to complain about the attack, he was detained on suspicion of entering Israel, disturbing a public official in the course of carrying out his duty, and fleeing. He was released the following day.

That same morning, R, 29, a father of six from a village near Yatta, arrived by car at a place where he intended to cross through the fence and enter Israel. He was the first of the passengers to get out of the vehicle. He told B'Tselem that, immediately after getting out, and before he crossed the fence, he was attacked by a dog, which bit him in the lower back and tried to knock him to the ground. When he tried to push him away, the dog bit him in the right arm. The dog kept his teeth fastened to his arm for a few minutes. When soldiers arrived and saw the injury the dog had caused, they stunned the dog with the electric-shock device, and the dog released R’s arm. The soldiers gave R first-aid and then took him, along with a few other Palestinians who had been caught, to an army checkpoint, where an army physician treated him. From there, he was taken to the police station in Kiryat Arba for questioning. On his release, he went to the government hospitals in Yatta and Hebron for treatment.

In two other cases, B'Tselem has partial information only, since the injured Palestinians remain in custody. On 25 April, K, a 45-year-old resident of al-Burej, Hebron District, tried to enter Israel illegally. During the attempt he apparently was wounded by gunfire and was bitten by a dog and was taken to Soroka Medical Center, in Beersheva. A few hours later, K was taken from the hospital and is now in the army’s prison at Ofer. Since he is incarcerated, B'Tselem presently unable to obtain further details on the incident.

On the morning of 26 April, A, a resident of a-Dhahiriya, was bitten in the leg and hand and detained by soldiers at the same place. An Israeli photographer who documents Palestinian laborers in the area met A and other laborers while they were being detained at the site of the incident and photographed his wounds. Due to A’s detention, B'Tselem is presently unable to obtain further information about the incident.