Last night Israeli TV cut away from reporting on Netanyahu’s Washington fiasco to cover the leak of an outrageous video of Israeli soldiers inciting their trained “elite” dogs to attack and maul a captured Palestinian teen near an illegal West Bank settlement two months ago. The video appeared on the Facebook page of Michael Ben-Ari, a former member of Knesset of the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Strength”) party. And it is big news in Israel.
The footage shows a terrified Hamza Abu Hashem, 16, screaming while being mauled by the dogs as two soldiers, reportedly dog handlers from the Oketz unit wearing helmet cameras, record the scene. According to B’tselem, the video was “presumably available to their commanders during the routine debriefing held after such operations.”
A translation of the soldiers words by Mairav Zonszein at +972 include “Who’s the coward now?” and “Bite him.”
The Times of Israel reports that Ben-Ari praised the attack on his Facebook posting (now removed), describing Hashem as “the little terrorist”:
“The soldiers are teaching the little terrorist a lesson. Share it! So that every little terrorist who plans to harm our soldiers will learn there is a price [to this],” Ben Ari wrote.
The attack took place in the “special security zone” (SSZ)* surrounding the illegal colony Karmi Tzur, near Beit Ummar, after a confrontation erupted between soldiers and Palestinians outside the settlement. The settlement’s inhabitants are notorious for attacks on Palestinian farmers, and the uprooting of Palestinian crops and trees.
B’tselem first documented and publicized this incident soon after it occurred last December in Video: The Army continues to use dogs to attack Palestinian civilians. However B’tselem’s 12 minute video, taken by volunteer Mohammed Awad, didn’t include the leaked dog mauling scene captured by a soldier from the Oketz unit, which is classified and not for public consumption. It’s unclear how Ben-Ari came to have the video.
Here are some scenes from the Awad/B’tselem’s video. At 2:20 in you can see them putting something over Hashem’s head as they take him away to Karmi Tzur.
Note the armed guard at the entrance to the settlement:
And the dog:
Later Hashem was transported by ambulance to an Israeli hospital where he was taken into custody and transferred to Ofer Prison. He was subsequently sentenced to 18 months in prison for “terror activities.”
Based on B’Tselem’s experience, this footage is yet another example of the army’s standard practice when dogs are used in arrest operations: a dog handler takes the dog off the leash, the dog chases a group of civilians, clamps its teeth onto a person who did not manage to escape, and holds on until the handler arrives. In some cases documented by B’Tselem, the dog refused to release the person and the dog handler had to use a taser to release his grip. Also, two dog handlers from the Oketz unit who took part in this incident had helmet cameras on, and the footage captured on them was presumably available to their commanders during the routine debriefing held after such operations.
Previous responses received from the MAG Corps [Military Advocate General], regarding complaints that B’Tselem filed in some ten other cases in which dogs were set on civilians, indicate that internal inquiry into such incidents focuses only on how the dogs were used, and not on whether they should have been used at all. The responses centered on professional mistakes made in some of the cases, according to the MAG Corps, and not on the policy of allowing dog attacks against unarmed civilians. B’Tselem wrote to the Military Advocate General demanding an end to dog attacks on Palestinian civilians. The only response, received more than 18 months ago, was that the letter was received and is under review. The army had stated in the past, after similarly shocking footage of a dog unleashed on a demonstrator was published, that it would stop using dogs to disperse demonstrations.
B’Tselem once again calls on the military to stop the horrifying use of dogs for arresting unarmed Palestinian civilians. Setting dogs on civilians is an appalling act, both unlawful and immoral.
The “security zones” policy is a program set up ostensibly to protect the settlers that effectively increases the areas of the settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. Although supposedly only security forces are allowed into the zone, the Israeli military generally allows settlers to roam the zone areas whenever they want, unsupervised. But it’s closed to Palestinians unless they’ve obtained a special permit to cultivate their land, and those permits typically cover just a few days in the year. According to B’tselem “In some cases, the settlers of Palestinian land tour within the SSZ, steal their crops growing in them, and even live and work the land, in contravention of their definition.”