Gideon Levy

Palestinian Schoolteacher Mauled by Israeli Military Dog as Soldiers Watch

Bursting into a schoolteacher’s house in the middle of the night, soldiers sicced their dog on him. The dog bit him and held on, as his family looked on, horrified

Mabruk and Innas Jarrar in the hospital.
\ Alex Levac

It’s not an easy sight to look at. His wife shows us the photographs on her phone: his wounded arm, battered and bleeding, mauled and mangled, scarred along its entire length. The same with his hip. It’s the aftermath of the night of horror he endured, together with his wife and children.

Imagine: The front door is blasted open in the middle of the night, soldiers burst violently into the house and set a dog upon him. He falls to the floor, terrorized, the teeth of the vicious animal gripping his flesh for a quarter of an hour. All the while, both he and his wife and children are emitting bloodcurdling screams. Then, bleeding and wounded, he’s handcuffed and taken by the soldiers into custody, and denied medical aid for hours, until he’s taken to the hospital, which is where we met him and his wife this week. There, too, he had been under arrest, forced to lie shackled to his bed.

That near-lynching was perpetrated by Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Mabruk Jarrar, a 39-year-old Arabic teacher in the village of Burkin, near Jenin, during their brutal manhunt for the murderer of Rabbi Raziel Shevach from the settlement of Havat Gilad on January 9. And if that wasn’t enough, a few days after the night of terror, soldiers returned again in the dead of night. The women in the house were forced to disrobe completely, including Jarrar’s elderly mother and his mute and disabled sister, apparently in a search for money.

The orthopedics ward in Haemek Hospital in Afula, Monday. A narrow room, three beds. In the middle one is Jarrar, who has been here for about two weeks. On Sunday morning the schoolteacher was still shackled to his bed with iron chains, and soldiers prevented his wife from tending to him. The soldiers left at midday after a military court ordered Jarrar’s unconditional release.

It’s not clear why he was arrested or why the troops set the dog on him.

His left arm and his leg are bandaged, the searing pain that still accompanies every movement is plainly visible on his face. His wife, Innas, 37, is by his side. They were married just 45 days ago, the second marriage for both. His two children from his first marriage – Suheib, who’s 9, and 5-year-old Mahmoud – were eyewitnesses to what the soldiers and their dog wrought on their father. The children are now staying with their mother, in Jenin, but their sleep is troubled, Jarrar tells us: They wake up with nightmares, shouting for him, and wetting their beds out of fear.

Jarrar teaches Arabic in Hisham al-Kilani Elementary School in Jenin. On Friday, February 2, he and his wife went to bed about midnight. Asleep in the adjacent room were his two sons, who stay with him on weekends. At about 4 A.M., the family was awakened by an explosion that came from the direction of the front door. Several windows in the house were shattered by the force of the blast. Jarrar leaped out of bed and rushed to be with the children. IDF jeeps were parked outside. A huge dog, apparently from Oketz, the army’s canine unit, was brought into the house, followed by at least 20 soldiers, according to the couple. It’s not hard to imagine the horror that seized them and the children.

Mabruk Jarrar's injured arm.
\ Alex Levac

The dog pounced on Jarrar, fastening its teeth into his left side, knocking him down and dragging him along the floor. At first the soldiers did nothing. His wife rushed to him with a blanket, trying to cover the dog with it and to rescue her husband. The children looked on and cried as their parents shouted for help; their cries were very loud, they say now. Innas was unable to free her husband from the dog’s grip.

It took quite a few minutes, they recall, before the soldiers also tried to pull the dog off, but the animal didn’t obey them, either. Mabruk was certain that he was going to be ripped to pieces and die; Innas also feared the worst.

The soldiers tore Jarrar’s clothes off, apparently in an attempt to release him from the dog’s clutches and finally succeeded – after about a quarter of an hour, by his estimate. Then one of the soldiers punched him twice in the face. He was wounded and reeling with fright and in that state, the soldiers bound his hands behind his back. They took him downstairs, at which point an officer arrived, asked Jarrar what his name was, released him from the handcuffs and photographed his injuries. The officer, Jarrar says now, also seemed to be appalled by the bleeding wounds, the torn and mangled arm and hip.

After being handcuffed again, the teacher was taken in a military vehicle to the detention facility at Salem, near Jenin, where he says he remained for about three hours with no medical treatment. Finally he was taken to Haemek Hospital, arriving there at about 10:30 A.M. He was now a detainee, though it wasn’t clear for what reason.

That same night, his two brothers, Mustafa and Mubarak Jarrar, were also arrested. Mubarak was released; Mustafa remains in custody. They all have the surname of the person who was wanted for the murder of Rabbi Shevach, Ahmed Jarrar, who was subsequently killed by the army.

Also on the same night, a similar incident occurred, involving different IDF forces, in the village of Al-Kfir, near Jenin. At about 4 A.M., soldiers broke into the home of Samr and Nour Adin Awad, the parents of four small children. Along with the soldiers, an Oketz dog was brought into the bedroom, and it bit and wounded both parents.

As Nour explained to Abd Al-Karim a-Saadi, a field researcher of the Israeli B’tselem human rights organization: “I held my 2-year-old son Karem, who was crying, to my chest. I opened the door, which the soldiers were banging on, and a dog attacked me, jumping on my chest. Karem fell from my arms. Later I saw that my husband picked him up from the floor. I tried to push the dog away after it bit me in the chest. I managed to move it away but then it grabbed my left hip [with its teeth]. I managed with all my strength to push him away. At that moment, the soldiers looked at the dog, but did nothing. During this whole time my husband was begging the soldiers to release the dog from me. One soldier spoke to the dog in Hebrew and then it grabbed me by the left arm [holding me] for a few minutes, until a soldier arrived from outside the house and removed it. I was bleeding and in great pain.”

Soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces' canine unit.
Amit Elkayam/IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The second intrusion by troops came a few days later, on February 8. Now only women and children were in the Jarrar house: Innas, her husband’s two children and also his mother and sister, who live in the same building. It was 3:30 A.M. According to Innas, about 20 soldiers, male and female, took part in this raid. They told her there was Hamas money in the house and that they had come to confiscate it. They stepped on the beds and ignored Innas’ pleas to stop. They asked where Mabruk was – seemingly unaware that he was already in army custody at the time, in the hospital.

Then came the body searches. A female soldier took the three women – Jarrar’s wife, his 75-year-old mother and his 50-year-old disabled sister – into a room and ordered them to undress completely. The search turned up nothing: no money, no Hamas. Afterward, the soldiers gave Innas an entry permit to Israel, to visit her husband in Afula. She says they told her that he was in Megiddo Prison. She went there the next day, only to discover that he wasn’t there. She called B’Tselem’s Abed Al-Karim a-Saadi, whom she describes as her kind redeemer. He made some calls and discovered that Mabruk was actually hospitalized in Afula. He was still under arrest when she got there, and she was only allowed to visit him for 45 minutes.

In response to a request for comment, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit this week told Haaretz: “On February 3, 2017, security forces came to the village of Burkin, to the house of Mabruk Jarrar, who is suspected of activities that endanger security in Judea and Samaria. Once they were at his home, the troops called him to come outside. After repeated calls and after he did not come out, the forces acted according to procedure and a dog was sent to search for people inside. The suspect had locked himself in a room on the upper floor of the building together with female members of his family.

“When the door opened, the dog bit the suspect, injuring him. He received immediate assistance from the army’s medical forces until he was evacuated to the hospital. Thereafter other activities were conducted in search of wanted individuals. We stress that in contrast with what is claimed in the article, the women of the house were not stripped by army forces.”

Jarrar is sitting on his hospital bed, his speech strained, every movement an effort. Innas arrives every day from Burkin. “How do you think I felt?” he replies in answer to a question about what he felt during the dog’s attack. “I thought I was going to die.”

Given the ethnic composition of the physicians, patients, nurses and visitors, this is effectively a binational Jewish-Arab hospital – like most of the hospitals in the north of the country. But a Jewish maintenance man suddenly enters the room, seething with anger. “Why are you interviewing Arabs? Why not Jews?” he demands. The man threatens to summon the hospital’s security officer, because wounded, mauled Mabruk Jarrar was talking to us.