Update: On 23 June 2013 the MAG Corps informed B’Tselem that it had ordered an MPIU investigation of the incident. To the best of B’Tselem’s knowledge, the investigation was still underway in October 2014.
On Wednesday, 15 May 2013, at approximately 7:00 P.M., three Palestinian men – including Muhammad al-‘Amla and his relative ‘Omar al-‘Amla – approached a section of the Separation Barrier that passes by their hometown of Beit Ula, intending to cross it into Israel. The three, who do not have entry permits, were planning to work in Israel.
In testimony he gave to B’Tselem, Muhammad al-‘Amla, a 28-year-old father of three, told field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash that, once they had neared a breach in the barrier, he and his two companions made sure the coast was clear and started moving towards it. When they were some twenty meters away from the barrier, they were startled to hear soldiers shouting at them to halt, and then the sound of gunfire:
“When we heard the gunfire, all three of us began running back towards Beit Ula. After I had run about fifty meters, I noticed a dog chasing me. I tried to get away from it, but it was too fast for me. It caught me by the nape of the neck and knocked me down. The dog sank its teeth into the nape of my neck and my back. The bite hurt a lot and I screamed. I tried to push the dog away from me, but I couldn’t.”
‘Omar al-‘Amla, 31, said that he had been running several meters ahead of Muhammad when he heard the latter cry out. He described what happened next:
“I saw a big dog attacking Muhammad. I stopped and went back to help him. I tried to get the dog to open its clamped jaw. I threw stones at the dog, but that didn’t help. Suddenly, another dog jumped me from behind. It sank its teeth into my right arm. I started bleeding and tried to get my arm out of the dog’s grip.
A few minutes later, soldiers came. They hit the dogs on the head until they let go of Muhammad and me. We were both bleeding and in a lot of pain. The soldiers made us lie down on the ground. They tied our hands behind our backs with plastic cable ties and blindfolded us. All the while, they were hitting and kicking us.”
The soldiers led the two detainees to Tarqumya checkpoint, nearby, where a military ambulance was waiting. The men were given first aid by military medics and were then taken to the Barzilai Medical Center in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, where they were treated and hospitalized overnight, under military guard. The following day, around noon, they were taken to the Hebron police station in Kiryat Arba.
Muhammad and ‘Omar al-‘Amla were kept waiting at the station until 1:00 A.M., when they were finally taken in for questioning. They were interrogated, separately, for allegedly trying to enter Israel illegally, and were released on bail with a summons for trial at the Ofer military court. Their companion who had been slightly injured in the leg by a rubber-coated metal bullet was also detained by the soldiers. He was released at Tarqumya checkpoint several hours after the incident, without having being taken in for questioning.
Over the last two years, B’Tselem has documented ten incidents, apart from this one, in which a total of eleven unarmed Palestinian civilians were attacked by military dogs. In five cases, dogs attacked Palestinian laborers attempting to enter Israel for work; in one case, a dog attacked a Palestinian demonstrator; in another case, a dog attacked a Palestinian youth who was on the scene of a clash between other youths and Israeli soldiers; and in the three remaining cases, dogs attacked civilians, including an 88-year-old woman, during military activity in residential areas.