By Yona Schnitzer
The ministries of agriculture and defense are considering a pilot program to authorize IDF soldiers to shoot wild animals thought to be infected with rabies, the Israel Broadcast Corporation (Kan) reported Sunday.
Israel’s northern region has been hit with an unprecedented rabies epidemic in recent months, with 14 reported instances of human contact with infected animals since the beginning of 2018. In addition there have dozens of reported incidents of rabid animals coming into contact with humans in the past few months, including an infected jackal who attacked a group of hikers in the Jezreel Valley; a jackal who entered a family home in Beit She’an and attacked a 4-year-old girl, and an IDF base in northern Israel, where 18 soldiers were hospitalized after possibly coming into contact with infected dogs.
According to the agriculture ministry, the outbreak is largely due to the civil war in Syria, which has sent countless infected jackals and dogs fleeing in the direction of Israel.
The ministry said the torrent of infected animals poses a significant threat to the balance of Israeli eco-systems and to human population.
To address the threat, the agriculture ministry has proposed collaborating with the defense ministry to allow IDF snipers to open fire at animals they suspect are infected.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, who are responsible for carrying out the thinning of the jackal population, have expressed support for the idea, saying ‘human life is above all else.’
Putting the plan into action could prove to be problematic, however: Legally, the IDF is forbidden by law from employing soldiers for non-military operations. To address that issue, however, the Department of Agriculture said the snipers would be deployed on the Syrian and Jordanian borders and would be shooting at animals entering the country, effectively defending Israel’s borders.