A video clip caught Israeli soldiers threatening a Palestinian teen with their dogs, spurring a former Knesset member to launch a social media campaign and the army to call for an investigation.
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The incident, in which the soldiers of the Oketz unit scared the teen with two dogs, happened 10 kilometers north of Hebron in December but only came to light with the video. In the background, an unidentified man can be heard saying to the boy, "Who's a chicken, eh? Who's a chicken? Great. Very good." Another man is heard telling a dog to "get him."
After rightwing activist and former MK Michael Ben Ari learned of the video, he tweeted, "The soldiers taught the little terrorist a lesson!" He asked his followers to spread the video so that "ever little terrorist who plans to harm our soldiers learns the price."
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel's Channel 1 on Monday he would ask the army for a response and that that matter would be looked into.
A senior officer serving in the territories said Monday 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 said the unit's behavior thereafter was unacceptable. The officer, who like others spoke to eyewitnesses, said he believed the off-camera voice belonged to a soldier, and that the army would take steps against him.
The video documents the arrest of Hamzeh Abu Hashem, a 16-year-old Palestinian during confrontations near Beit Umar and the nearby settlement of Karmei Zur. The family says the boy was treated in hospital after the incident for dog bites.
The army announced it would investigate the incident in wake of the video's release. According to human rights NGO B'tselem, the soldiers had GoPro cameras on their helmets, and questioned whether the army didn't know about the soldiers' behavior well before the video came to light.
Abu Hashem's father told Haaretz his son was arrested December 23 around Beit Umar for throwing stones. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment and fined 4,000 shekels ($1000). His father said he was hospitalized at Hadassah hospital before being transferred to Ofer prison.
"We, his mother and I, watched the video, and we couldn't believe what we were saying," he 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."
The IDF commented that it would stop using attack dogs to disperse demonstrations in the West Bank. The army decided in 2012 that the unit to which Oketz is attached would stop using dogs in demonstrations. The decision was made in the wake of a Palestinian demonstrator in 2012, who was injured after being attacked for several minutes by dogs from the unit. The army investigated the incident, in which the demonstrators needed medical care and stitches in his hand, deeming it an operational failure.
The army spokesman's office commented that after receiving the video clip, the army ordered an immediate investigation of the incident. "Upon conclusion, lessons will be drawn and the necessary steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence of such incidents," the statement read.
B'tselem commented that once again the army is calling to stop the frightening use of dogs to arrest unarmed civilians. "Urging dogs to attack humans is an immoral and illegal act that arouses horror."