Israeli Army Temporarily Halts Use of Attack Dogs in West Bank

Inquiry into incident in which a Palestinian youth was bitten by a dog while being arrested finds that the arrest could have been carried out using other means.

The use of attack dogs by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank has been provisionally halted, following an investigation which found that a dog was unnecessarily used to arrest a Palestinian youth.

IDF Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brigadier Tamir Yadai ordered the halt on Thursday. It will continue until the protocol for the use of dogs is reviewed and practiced. 

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Hamzeh Abu Hashem, 16, of Beit Umar, was arrested about two months by soldiers and a dog from the IDF's Oketz canine unit. A video of the incident shows the dog biting the youth and a soldier saying, "Who's a chicken, eh? Who's a chicken? Great. Very good." Another soldier is heard telling the dog to "get him."

Hashem, who required medical treatment, has been in detention since the incident, accused of throwing stones at the soldiers.

The IDF investigation found that while the use of dogs in confrontations could be justified, in the case in question, the youth could have been arrested using other means.

The IDF decided in 2012 to stop using attack dogs for the purpose of dispersing protests, but they are sometimes still used in ambushes.

The findings of the investigation were submitted to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Thursday.

Yadai also decided that the operational use of dogs in the West Bank will require the consent of brigade-level commanders or higher.

The investigation found that the use of dogs against stone throwers and those who disturb the peace was contrary to the mission as defined by the brigade commander.

"We are talking about a serious incident in which the use of dogs indicates a low level of professionalism," Brigadier Yadai said. "It involved a faulty understanding of the potential for damage and inappropriate ethical standards of behavior." 

"We, his mother and I, watched the video, and we couldn't believe what we were seeing," the boy's father, Ahmed Abu Hashem, recalled. "My wife almost fainted. I don't know if there's a mother or father in the world who can be indifferent to such pictures. It pained us very much, especially the fact that the boy was helpless and the soldiers rejoiced over him."

A senior officer serving in the territories said after the incident that the soldiers were engaged in a pre-approved ambush to catch firebomb throwers. He asserted that sending the dog was justified, and that it was a "measured step with a low risk of causing irreparable harm relative to shooting."

He added, however, that the unit's behavior after the incident was unacceptable.

The IDF intends taking action against the soldier who is heard saying "get him" on the video. The military police have also opened an investigation into the incident.