How Israel uses Caterpillar machinery to carry out extrajudicial executions

An Israeli army bulldozer destroys the house of Zakaria al-Aqra, 24, after he was killed by the Israeli army in Qabalan village near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, 11 August.

Ahmad Al-Bazz ActiveStills

On Monday 11 August, the Israeli army used a militarized Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in an attempt to arrest 24-year-old Zakaria al-Aqra at his home in the village of Qabalan near Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

The Times of Israel reported that Israeli forces carried out the so-called “pressure cooker” procedure in an attempt to force al-Aqra to come outside. Soldiers fired on the walls of his house and used the Caterpillar to damage the building. Al-Aqra was killed, six relatives were wounded and parts of his house were destroyed during the eight-hour assault.

A new report by Who Profits Research Center documents Israel’s use of heavy construction machinery in home demolitions as well as the construction of settlements, the West Bank wall, checkpoints, roadblocks and for crowd control.

Most of the construction machinery which is sold in Israel is manufactured in Europe (Volvo and JCB), the United States (Caterpillar), Japan (Hitachi), South Korea (Hyundai) and Turkey (Hidromek). Israeli representatives distribute the equipment and sell some of the imported machinery to the Israeli army and government authorities.

Pressure cooker procedure

The Who Profits report describes the notorious pressure cooker procedure which was originally developed to handle alleged hostage-takers barricaded inside a building. During the second intifada of the early 2000s it was modified and used against any Palestinians who were inside a house and who Israeli forces wanted to detain.

First, the occupation forces surrounding the house use a megaphone or a loudspeaker to order any persons inside to evacuate it immediately. If the persons remain inside the house, the soldiers start shooting at the building first with small arms, continuing with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and finally firing tank shells into the house.

If the persons survive and still refuse to surrender to the occupation forces, an armored bulldozer or excavator is sent to the scene. The bulldozer initially shakes the house and then starts peeling off the walls of the floor in which the person is located, ultimately destroying the house and burying the victim of the attack beneath it.

Unlawful extrajudicial killings

The pressure cooker procedure can therefore culuminate in an extrajudicial execution.

Israeli media have reported the deaths of several Palestinians as a result of this brutal procedure.

Who Profits recalls the murder of 24-year-old Muataz Washaha, from the village of Birzeit near Ramallah, who was wanted by the Israeli army.

On 27 February 2014, Israeli occupation forces entered the village to detain Washaha, who refused to surrender himself, just like Zakaria al-Aqra. After several hours, Israeli occupation forces knocked down part of the building with an armored excavator and opened fire. The attack resulted in the death of Washaha.

If an occupation authority has credible evidence that certain persons in an occupied territory are involved in criminal activity, it may, under the international conventions governining military occupation, arrest, charge and submit them to a fair trial.

Palestinians under Israeli occupation have never been subjected to fair procedures and are instead usually subjected to Israel’s grossly unfair and abusive military court system. Israel, moreover, treats many forms of legitimate and lawful resistance to its occupation regime as “criminal.”

But in the case of the “pressure cooker,” Israeli occupation forces do away even with the pretense of judicial propriety and carry out an execution in stages.

The use of a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer as a weapon in the brutal procedure that resulted in the killing of al-Aqra underscores why Caterpillar should remain a target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

New Volvo trucks for Israeli army

In its report, Who Profits also documents the role of the Volvo Group in a detailed company profile. For example, Volvo machinery was used for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and the wall.

The company’s wheel loaders were used in numerous attempts to evict the Bedouin community of al-Araqib from its land in the Naqab. The Volvo Group and its subsidiary Merkavim further provide services to the Israel Prison Service, including buses for the transportation of prisoners.

Volvo’s links with the Israeli occupation are further revealed by Israel’s Ynet news website which reported on 15 August that next year Volvo will deliver one thousand trucks to the Israeli army to be used as tank carriers.

After we have witnessed — once again — the devastating destruction in Gaza, all deliveries and aid to the Israeli army should be halted immediately.

The new Who Profits report sends a clear warning to Caterpillar, Volvo, Hidromek, Hitachi, Hyundai and JCB. Their company profiles provide detailed information about the use of their equipment in the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians, including possibly in the latest mass slaughter in Gaza.

The BDS movement will continue its activism against the companies as long as they stay involved in these crimes.




Israel likes to tell us there was hardly anybody living in what is now Israel and Palestine previous to the creation of Israel. Alison Weir writes that in 1948, Loy Henderson, Director of the State Department, wrote a memo warning, “support by the Government of the United States of a policy favoring the setting up of a Jewish State in Palestine would be contrary to the wishes of a large majority of the local inhabitants with respect to their form of government. Furthermore, it would have a strongly adverse effect upon American interests throughout the Near and Middle East...”
[…] “At the present time the United States has a moral prestige in the Near and Middle East unequaled by that of any other great power. We would lose that prestige and would be likely for many years to be considered as a betrayer of the high principles which we ourselves have enunciated during the period of the war.”
[…] “[Proposals for partition] are in definite contravention to various principles laid down in the [UN] Charter as well as to principles on which American concepts of Government are based. These proposals, for instance, ignore such principles as self-determination and majority rule. They recognize the principle of a theocratic racial state and even go so far in several instances as to discriminate on grounds of religion and race.”
Weir also writes that, “In 1947 the CIA reported that Zionist leadership was pursuing objectives that would endanger both Jews and 'the strategic interests of the Western powers in the Near and Middle East.'” Why would they care if it was an uninhabited pile of rocks? It does not make you anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew to disagree with what Israel is doing, just a person of compassion, with a conscience and with a good heart.


You know, thousands of Palestinian children, elderly, women and  men have been and can still be killed, injured, maimed or displaced by Israeli action in Gaza.
And we have seen that the great powers do nothing to prevent these massacres.
We must do something. One idea is to support the UN in the investigation of crimes committed in that conflict.
I ask your cooperation, signing and publicizing the demonstration below.

Spread this campaign among your friends!


Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh