IDF to Reduce Use of Dogs Against Protesters

Decision made following incident in which protester sustained injuries.

The Israel Defense Forces will scale down their use of dogs against demonstrators, in the wake of an incident three months ago when a dog from an IDF canine unit was let loose and bit a protester at Kfar Kadum.

In March, an officer from the IDF's Oketz canine unit released his dog to disperse protesters at a demonstration in the village, near Nablus. The protesters began to flee, but the dog caught one of them, Ahmed Shatawi, knocked him down and gripped his arm between his teeth for several minutes. He was slightly injured and required stitches.

The IDF Ground Forces Command investigated the incident and found that the soldier had taken off the dog's muzzle and let him loose. The soldier was unable to free Shatawi's arm for between seven and 10 minutes, which the IDF viewed as a serious professional error on the part of the soldier.

However, a senior IDF officer said that the army may use dogs again in the future in certain cases, but they would be muzzled. He said dogs are considered "non-lethal weapons" and can be used in certain circumstances, as they can knock people down without serious injury.

The IDF Spokesman said on the day of the attack: "During violent and illegal disturbances in Kadum around 100 Palestinians gathered, rolled burning tires toward security forces and threw stones at them, and they [the security forces] responded with crowd-dispersal methods.

"One Palestinian was arrested for physically assaulting the forces at the scene," the spokesman added. "Another Palestinian who was detained was bitten by a dog that was part of the force. He was treated at the site by a military medical team and did not require evacuation to the hospital. The two [Palestinians] were taken for further questioning by the security forces."

In a later interview West Bank commander Brig. Gen. Hagai Mordechai called using dogs against demonstrators a mistake.

Shatawi was arrested on suspicions of rock throwing on two separate occasions. He is currently being held until the court concludes his trial.

AP