Israel’s ‘Teddy Bear’ armoured bulldozer is anything but cuddly

The armoured bulldozer the Israeli military is using to spearhead its land invasion of Gaza may be nicknamed the “Teddy Bear” but it has a reputation for being anything but cuddly.

Weighing in at some 60 tons, the “D9R” machine is 13ft tall and almost 15ft wide. It is equipped with armour, a large front dozer blade and a bullet-proof cockpit where a two-person crew is protected against sniper fire.

In 2015, the Israel Defense Force (IDF), which started using the US-made bulldozers in 1967, upgraded the machine with so-called “slat armour”to better protect them against RPGs, or rocket-propelled grenades.

In recent days, as Israel has commenced its ground assault on Gaza, three weeks after Hamas terrorists killed 1,400 Israelis in an attack that jolted the nation, the bulldozers have been pictured operating both in the enclave and in the West Bank.

Reports suggest that as many as 100 of the machines, which cost up $1 millon each, could be used in the assault.

Hamas’s Al Qassam brigades on Tuesday claimed they had targeted two Israeli tanks and bulldozers in north-west Gaza.

It is likely the machines will be used to protect troops and destroy any booby traps that have been set by Hamas.

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The machines, which are produced by Texas-based Caterpillar, have a controversial history. They were used in the 2008-09 Gaza war known as Operation Cast Lead, which left up to 1,400 dead.

In March 2003, Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist, was crushed to death by a D9R bulldozer as she tried to protect homes in southern Gaza that are once again coming under attack by Israeli bombs.

The Israeli military said its driver had not seen the 23-year-old activist from Olympia, Washington, and claimed it was an accident.

Her parents, Craig and Cindy, fought a long legal battle and persuaded some of the activists who had been with her to testify, but in 2012 an Israeli court found against the couple. They were also prevented by court from suing Caterpillar in the US, because the bulldozers were sold to Israel as part of a policy of the US government.

Rachel’s parents dedicated themselves to trying to raise awareness about the conflict and working for peace. They established a foundation in their daughter’s name.

In the aftermath of the Oct 7 attacks by Hamas, it issued a statement that said: “There is no conceivable justification for the atrocities and war crimes committed by Hamas that claimed the lives of so many Israeli civilians and impacted so many more.”

It also said it was “deeply disturbed” by the Israeli reprisals that had killed thousands of Palestinians..

Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, told The Telegraph it was difficult to watch the news about what was happening in Gaza, 20 years after his daughter was killed there as she sought to work for peace.

He said he had heard people talking about the “Teddy Bear” or Doobi, as it is referred to in Hebrew, for 20 years.

Caterpillar was founded in 1925 and its products first used in combat during the Second World War. Its bulldozers were also used by US forces during the Vietnam War to clear forests.

Israel has made use of bulldozers in several conflicts. Caterpillar did not respond to qrequests for comment.

Mr Corrie, 76, said he was horrified by the sight of buildings being destroyed by Israel’s bomb attacks. The Hamas-controlled health ministry claims that as many as 8,000 Palestinians have been killed.

“I see the damage that is happening with the bombing, the wholesale bombing, and knowing it’s crushing people underneath those buildings,” he said. “And in some cases, people are still alive. They can’t be dug out. Because there’s no power.”

‘War machines’

Asked about the bulldozers being used, he said they were “war machines”.

“You can put those things in low [gear] and just go through all of these concrete reinforced buildings,” he said. “[If they run over people] they will be crushed.”

Mr Corrie said the only solution was for an immediate ceasefire, something Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has rejected.

He also said there needed to be a wholesale solution to the Israel-Palestine dilemma.

“We need to work out a long term solution,” he said. “We can’t go back to the status quo, because that was crushing a whole people. And sooner or later, it was going to explode.”

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