Israel’s canine unit saved lives by spotting Hamas terror traps, saved civilians near Gaza Strip

Israel’s specialized canine unit, Oketz, performed the key task of saving the lives of civilians and soldiers by alerting them to potential dangers, including explosives and weapon caches, even at the expense of their own lives. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) boasts one of the most cutting-edge fighting forces, having integrated artificial intelligence into many of its operations, but some tasks still require an old-school approach. This is where the Oketz unit makes its mark.

“There are a few types of dogs used by the unit, some are confidential, most of them are types of [shepherds],” an officer known as “Major A,” an operative canine warfare school commander for the Oketz unit, told Fox News Digital.

“They are used for three main reasons: tactical dogs that are used to identify enemies; explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) dogs for finding explosives and others; and search and rescue dogs that took a vital part in this war in Israel and Gaza,” Major A said. 

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IDF troops cross the Gaza warzone accompanied by dogs from the Oketz unit. (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

Major A could not divulge how many dogs serve in the unit – the total remaining confidential – but he said it has counted “hundreds of dogs.”

Video provided by the IDF shows the dogs in action: in one clip, identifying a booby-trapped car; in another, clearing a room before soldiers enter.

The Oketz unit helped the Marom Special Operations Brigade expose roughly 50 booby-trapped explosive devices and dozens of weapons stockpiles before the four-day cease-fire, which has now extended two more days as Hamas continues to release hostages in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli custody and further pauses in the fighting. 

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IDF Oketz dog

An IDF soldier is shown with an Oketz unit dog out in the field. (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

The dogs also helped rescue more than 200 civilians under fire near the Gaza Strip, the New York Post reported. A canine named Naro even alerted the IDF to a planned Hamas ambush while on a mission near the kibbutz of Kfar Aza.

Naro died in the ensuing gunfight – one of the few members of the Oketz unit that have died since the war started.

Major A said dog deaths in the unit “in routine” remain rare, with approximately one to two deaths per year, but that wartime is a different story. 

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Oketz memorial stone

This view shows an Oketz memorial stone in the unit’s graveyard that says, “Rambo. Died in an operational activity.” (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

“In this specific war we have unfortunately lost five dogs already, which provided a huge contribution to the war effort and saved many soldiers’ lives,” Major A said.

The four other dogs died defending soldiers in the Gaza Strip itself: Mido, Taiga, Jack and Ghandi. The dogs will be buried in the Oketz unit cemetery, according to protocol, an IDF spokesperson told Fox News Digital.

The unit performs a ceremony to bury the dog and show respect for the fallen dog’s service to Israel.

“Every dog has a special stone that explains who he was and when he fell and why, similar to soldier’s tombs,” Major A said.

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The unit honors the dogs once a year before Memorial Day, which is observed near the end of April or the start of May every year, in a special service for the fallen dogs. Survivors from the specific units affected by the deaths return to show respect.

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