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Oketz elite canine unit of the Israeli Army. (Photo: Israel Defense Forces, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Amid widespread criticism of Israeli military cruelty towards animals in the Gaza Strip, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published a report on the ‘large dogs’ of the Palestinian Resistance. 

The Israeli Hebrew newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth revealed the failure of dogs trained in the ‘Oketz’ unit of the Israeli army in the face of the huge dogs used by the Palestinian Resistance in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli claims have not been verified since Palestinians are not known to use dogs in their war against invading Israeli forces.

More Dogs

The Israeli newspaper said in its report published last Wednesday that the Israeli Ministry of Defense has now begun the process of purchasing trained dogs from Europe for use in the Gaza war after the dogs of the Oketz unit failed to carry out their tasks successfully. 

The reason behind their failure, according to the Israeli military, is the claim that they are being attacked by the huge dogs allegedly used by Hamas in the war.

According to the newspaper, the procurement director at the Israeli Ministry of Defense has already begun the process, which will start by obtaining trained dogs, mostly of the Malino breed, from the Netherlands and Germany. 

The new dogs are expected to arrive in the coming months.

Killed in War

The Israeli military is also looking for suppliers of explosive detection dogs, rescue dogs, and attack dogs from other countries as well, with an Israeli delegation currently heading to Europe to promote the move and select the best dogs.

According to the newspaper, the dogs of the Oketz unit help “soldiers a lot in identifying dangerous areas where militants are hiding, or where they plant weapons and rockets, and in many cases, the dogs are killed while carrying out complex tasks in built-up and dangerous areas.”

As a matter of course, Israeli soldiers send dogs deep inside Resistance tunnels fearing that they might be booby-trapped. 

The newspaper acknowledged that so far 17 operational dogs have been killed in fierce battles. It also claimed that Hamas operatives left the large dogs chained inside the targeted houses to scare and mislead the army dogs.

Thousands of Palestinian animals have been killed by the Israeli military, or have been shot by soldiers. They include house pets, stray animals, and even zoo animals. 

Thousands of dogs and cats have also become homeless when their owners were killed or forced to flee seeking safety from Israeli bombs.  

This could explain why many dogs have been left chained, especially in the northern regions, where Israel used fire belts to destroy whole neighborhoods, often along with their inhabitants. 

Oketz Means ‘Bite’ 

“There are unusual events that may hinder the work of the dogs of the Oketz unit, which are sent to the scene to make sure there are no improvised explosive devices or gunmen ambushing the soldiers,” Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an Israeli source as saying.

“The dogs of the Oketz unit are really skilled at ignoring noise, bullets and the presence of other animals, such as cats and dogs, but in such situations the huge dogs of Gaza may try to attack the dogs of the unit and thus hinder their work,” the source added. 

The newspaper claimed that the trained dogs found at least 160 sites with explosives in the Gaza Strip and that they helped arrest dozens of Hamas members. 

The claims cannot be verified by independent sources. 

‘Oketz’ means ‘bite’ or ‘nahash’ in Hebrew, and is a military unit of the Marom Special Operations Brigade in the occupation army. It is considered one of the best trained dog units in the world.

Established in 1974 at the Sirkin base, the Oketz unit started with only 11 recruited dogs before later expanding to hundreds.

The unit’s work began clandestinely during the seventies and eighties before it was officially announced in 1988, following an operation in southern Lebanon.

According to Israeli reports, puppies from dogs originating from specialized farms from Belgium and Germany are brought in at the age of no more than 6 months, and then after evaluation by experts, they are purchased at a cost of about $ 10,000 or $ 15,000 per puppy.

The puppies undergo a rehabilitation course with the aim of improving the use of the sense of smell for a year, in addition to receiving the required vaccines before starting to work for another year with the branches of the special forces in the occupation army, such as ‘Dovdovan’ and ‘Al-Igoz’, in preparation for their inclusion in Oketz.


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