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The Oketz Unit (Hebrew: יחידת עוקץ, lit. sting), is the independent canine special forces (sayeret) unit of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded in 1939 as part of Haganah. It was dismantled at 1954. At 1974, a new unit was built by Yossi Labock, who was its first commander. The unit specializes in training and handling dogs for military applications. Originally, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but training has since become more specialized, and now each dog is trained in a particular specialty. Attack dogs are trained to operate in both urban and rural areas (they were used extensively in Lebanon). Other dogs are trained to track and pursue selected targets for manhunts and to detect breaches at the Israeli border. In addition, yet more dogs are trained to search for guns and munitions, to sniff out hidden explosives, and to find people in collapsed buildings.
Oketz operators are often assigned to other units when said units are in need of their specialist skills, for example, the extraction of terrorists from fortified buildings. Though not affiliated with the IDF Paratroopers Brigade, Oketz operators wear the same distinctive red berets and the unit's graduation ceremony is held at the Paratroopers headquarters. However, in order to join Oketz, the recruit must choose the Kfir Infantry Brigade as their preferred choice in the request form and then pass the unit's trials.
Oketz prefers the Belgian Shepherd (Malinois), over the German Shepherd and Rottweiler, which were formerly employed by the unit. The reasons for this preference are twofold: one, the Malinois is large enough to effectively attack an enemy while still being small enough to be picked up by its handler, and two, their coats are short and typically of a neutral to fair color, making them less prone to heatstroke.
|This section uses citations that link to broken or outdated sources. (May 2012)|
- Oketz - The Crack Canine Unit YouTube video about Oketz - The Crack Canine Unit
- Israeli army's dogs to get new home, upscale cemetery article by IsraelInsider daily newsmagazine about new home for Israeli army's dogs
- Kidnap Attempt of an IDF Soldier Thwarted article about thwarted kidnap attempt of an IDF soldier - A dog from the IDF Oketz canine unit is killed[dead link]
- Another bomb-sniffing dog dies during duty article by AR-News, written by Arene Fine, Staff Reporter, about Toska, an Israeli bomb-sniffing dog who died in battle
- St.-Sgt. Nadav Kudinski Article published by Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about Staff-Sergeant Nadav Kudinski of the IDF Oketz canine unit, who, along with his dog, was killed by a bomb.[dead link]
- Israel's Dogs of War[dead link]