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The soldiers, the teen who was attacked, and the attack dogs in Beit Umar. Photo: Muhammad ‘Awwad, B’Tselem, 23 Dec. 2014
From the field

Military still using dogs to attack Palestinian civilians

At approximately 2 P.M. on Tuesday, 23 Dec. 2014, a confrontation developed between several dozen Palestinians and soldiers in the Special Security Area (SSA) surrounding the settlement of Carmei Tzur, south of Beit Umar in the West Bank. The area is the site of frequent confrontations between soldiers and Palestinian residents of Beit Umar, whose land was appropriated for the settlement and the SSA.

The SSA, which is supposed to serve as a buffer zone that no one but security forces may enter, was established on privately-owned Palestinian land. The owners need to obtain a special permit to reach and cultivate their land, but such permits are issued for only several days a year. In contrast, security forces allow settlers free access to the stolen land. 

Video filmed by B’Tselem camera volunteer Muhammad ‘Awwad. The footage shows the soldiers with the attack dogs on village land and the arrest of 16-year-old Hamzeh Abu Hashem, but not the attack itself. Further on, soldiers are seen taking the teen into the SSA and locking the gate behind them, after which Palestinians verbally confront them, demanding his release. A settler, probably the settlement’shead of security, is seen cocking his weapon and the soldiers do nothing to stop him. 

During the confrontation, Palestinians threw stones at soldiers, who responded with use of crowd control weapons. About an hour after the incident began, at around 3 P.M., two soldiers arrived on the spot with two dogs, who were captured on video by B’Tselem volunteer Muhammad ‘Awwad. According to eyewitness reports, one of the dogs (seen lunging forward at the beginning of the footage) attacked and bit one of the Palestinians confronting the soldiers, 16-year-old Hamzeh Abu Hashem. The soldiers then removed the dogs, handcuffed Abu Hashem, and took him to the settlement of Carmei Tzur. From there, he was taken by ambulance to an Israeli hospital. Abu Hashem’s family reported that he was arrested and taken from hospital to Ofer Prison.  

In the video footage, soldiers and dogs are seen arriving on the scene, as well as a settler – apparently the settlement’s head of security – cocking a weapon and aiming it at the Palestinians, while soldiers standing near him do nothing to intervene. 

Two months ago, on 20 Oct. 2014, B’Tselem documented a similar incident in which dogs were set on a young Palestinian man opposite the Carmei Tzur settlement’s SSA. This comes after similar incidents in which dogs were used to attack Palestinian demonstrators or in arrests of Palestinian laborers who entered Israel to without permits. 

This use of dogs is dangerous and results in serious harm to unarmed persons. B’Tselem reiterates its demand that the military stop using dogs in this manner. Setting attack dogs on civilians is a horrifying act that is legally and morally reprehensible.