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Sunday, December 19, 2010

IDF dogs team up with vacuum cleaners to detect explosives

The idea is the brainchild of Oketz, the IDF’s elite canine unit, which trains Belgian Shepherd dogs to detect explosives at military checkpoints.

What do you get when you put a Belgian Shepherd, an IDF soldier, a military checkpoint and a vacuum cleaner together?

No, this is not the beginning of a joke; it’s a new and innovative method for speedy IDF inspections of Palestinian cars for explosives at checkpoints throughout the West Bank.

The idea is the brainchild of Oketz, the IDF’s elite canine unit, which trains Belgian Shepherd dogs to detect explosives at military checkpoints and during IDF operations.

As a unit, Oketz is organized like a battalion with a number of companies, each corresponding to the dog’s designation – attack, explosives- detection, tracking and search-and-rescue.

Teams are deployed throughout the country and participate in daily counter-terror operations in the West Bank and along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Since 2008, the IDF has removed 27 manned checkpoints throughout the West Bank, leaving 14 that are mostly along the periphery, between Israel and the Palestinian territory.

In line with Israel’s efforts to ease restrictions and enable faster passage between the checkpoints, the officers at Oketz began thinking of new ways to inspect cars without having to open the door and have a dog pop inside.

The new idea works simply. It involves taking a standard vacuum machine that works on batteries, connecting it to a glass jar and sucking in air from a Palestinian car. The Oketz dog then sniffs a row of about 10 jars, with air samples from 10 cars, and if explosives are detected, it signals to its handler, who then begins a more extensive search of the vehicles.

“This is being done in an effort to ease restrictions on Palestinians who travel through the checkpoints,” a senior officer from Oketz said on Monday. “There is no question that the best way is to stick a dog’s head in the car, but we want to make things easier, faster and more effective.”

Another possibility under consideration is for soldiers at checkpoints to use a cloth to swab parts of the car and collect scent particles.

The dog will then smell the cloth and determine if there are traces of explosives in the car.