The military must stop unacceptable practice of unleashing dogs against civilians

29 Mar 2012

Update regarding the assault on Ahmad Shteiwi: On 29 March 2012 B’Tselem applied to the MPIU demanding that it launch an investigation of the circumstances in which soldiers set an assault dog on Ahmad Shteiwi. B’Tselem also demanded they investigate the suspicion raised by Ahmad’s uncle Murad Shteiwi in his testimony to B’Tselem. Murad Shteiwi said that the soldiers, who arrested him after he tried to help his nephew, beat him while he was handcuffed and blindfolded en-route to the base to which he was taken. On 13 May 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that the MPIU is investigating the complaint of the alleged attack on Murad Shteiwi. With regard to the attack dog assault on Ahmad Shteiwi at a demonstration, the MAG Corps said that, after examining the report by military personnel, a decision had been made not to launch an MPIU investigation. In its update to B’Tselem, the MAG Corps explained that “the account [by military personnel] explained that the long time it took to release the dog from the complainant’s hand was a result of stone-throwing at the soldier who was trying to release the dog’s bite, demonstrators kicking the dog, and the complainant constantly moving about, these all caused the dog to lock its jaws harder and renew its bite, and that fact that the soldiers were not wearing gas masks when tear-gas was set off there. In addition, lessons were learned from the incident and new directives were formulated with regard to the use of attack dogs in the course of disturbances of the peace.” On 14 November 2013 the Office of the Advisor for Operational Matters informed B'Tselem that Border Police personnel were involved in the incident, not soldiers, and that the complaint was, therefore, conveyed to the MPIU. The MPIU informed B'Tselem that a decision had been made not to launch a criminal investigation in the case.

During the last year, B’Tselem has documented eight cases in which military dogs attacked and injured civilians.

In five cases that took place during April 2011, military dogs attacked and bit Palestinians attempting to enter Israel without permits via the Separation Barrier in the a-Ramadin area of the southwestern West Bank. B’Tselem petitioned the MAG Corps and OC Central Command to stop using attack dogs against Palestinians entering Israel without permits. Since the practice was publicized by the media, no similar incidents in the vicinity have come to B’Tselem’s attention. In response to B'Tselem's complaint the MAG Corps said in January 2012 that the Military Police Investigation Unit is investigating the complaints.

On the night of 21 December 2011, Israeli soldiers were conducting an arrest operation in Idhna village west of Hebron. Soldiers came to the ‘Awad family home to arrest Samer ‘Awad, age 24. While soldiers were inside the house, a dog that was accompanying the soldiers attacked Samer’s mother, ‘Amira, age 47, and bit her arm. When Kheirallah, one of Awad’s brothers, tried to prevent the attack on his mother, he was himself attacked by the dog and then by a soldier.

On 3 February 2012, Akram Hanatsheh, age 19, a resident of a-Tabaqa southwest of Hebron, was in the area where there was a confrontation with soldiers in his village. Hanatsheh tried to run away but an army dog chased him, bit his arm and would not let go. Soldiers then came over to Hanatsheh and assaulted him themselves while the dog was still biting his arm.

On 16 March 2012, a demonstration was held at Kfar Qadum, west of Nablus. Such demonstrations have been held weekly for the past nine months to protest the closure of the Qadum-Nablus road. The protesters reached the roadblock, screamed slogans expressing their opposition to the closure, and made speeches. A clash ensued between demonstrators and soldiers, who tried to disperse the crowd using tear gas and “skunk” spray among other things, and some of the demonstrators threw stones. At this point, a soldier unleashed a dog on the group of demonstrators. The dog attacked one of them, Ahmad Shteiwi, age 21, bit his arm and hung on for several minutes, even after his handler tried to get him to let go. After the soldiers managed to release Shteiwi’s arm from the dog’s jaws, they arrested him and his uncle, who had tried to help him.

The army policy permitting attack dogs to be used on civilians is unacceptable. This is a dangerous, uncontrollable tool which could lead to severe and disproportionate injury to unarmed civilians. Insofar as is known to B’Tselem, the civilians described above as having been attacked by dogs did nothing to endanger the soldiers and could have been detained nonviolently.

B’Tselem urges the military commanders to immediately change the existing policy and completely prohibit the use of dogs to attack civilians, before any more civilians are injured.