A U.S. based multinational manufacturer and provider of civil and military engineering machinery. Caterpillar is the world’s largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. The company operates in three sectors: resource industries, construction industries and power systems.
Caterpillar in service of the Israeli military
The company’s machines have been in use for the demolition of Palestinian houses in the occupied Palestinian territory, the construction of settlements and settlement infrastructure on occupied Palestinian land, construction of the Separation Wall in the West Bank and the wall surrounding Gaza. Company products have also been used for creating roadblocks, dispersing demonstrations and as weapons, and are also used in military training taking place in the occupied Syrian Golan.
Caterpillar is a long-standing supplier of the Israeli army and provides it with a variety of heavy engineering machinery, including different wheel loaders, armored excavators, mini loaders and several models from the D9 armored bulldozer series (D9R, D9N, D9L and D9T).
The most famous heavy engineering machine used by the Israeli army is the Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer. D9s were extensively used in the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2008-2009 and in 2014, and for operational tasks such as large-scale house demolitions in Gaza, land-clearing missions in Palestinian towns and arresting or killing Palestinian suspects using the “pressure cooker” procedure. The “Pressure Cooker” procedure is an Israeli military practice used to pressure a person wanted on a charge of terrorism who fortifies in a house, to come out. In such cases, Israeli military Combat Engineering Corps demolish the structure with the person still inside, even in the case of that person being killed in the process. This procedure has been used against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. This procedure is performed with Caterpillar excavators models Caterpillar D9 (L/N/R/T), Caterpillar 966 (E/F/G/H), Caterpillar 330, and Caterpillar 349.
The company’s sole representative in Israel is Israel Tractors and Equipment (I.T.E), a fully-owned subsidiary of Zoko Enterprises. Ramta, a division of the government-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), are responsible for retrofitting the Caterpillar tools for the needs of the Israeli army, in some cases in cooperation with Zoko.
The retrofitting includes the installation of gunner positions and a bulletproof driver cabin to allow for battle use. The collaboration between Zoko Enterprises and the Ramta Division also produced an unmanned, remote-controlled version of the armored D9T, nicknamed “Pooh HaDov” (Winnie-the-Pooh).
The development of this vehicle took place in Ramta’s factory in Beersheba and was sponsored and supervised by the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure (Mafat), a joint administrative body of the Ministry of Defense and the army. An earlier unmanned version, the so-called Thunder of Dawn, based on the Caterpillar D9N model and developed by Ramta alone, was operational during the Second Lebanon War and the 2008-9 military assault on Gaza.
In 2018, it was revealed that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) won a contract for conversion of Caterpillar Dozers into remotely controlled unmanned D9s, nicknamed "Panda", designed for integration in battlefield. The unmanned D9s are deployed around Gaza and have been used in front of protestors.
In 2019, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD) Selected Elbit Systems’ “Iron Fist” Protection System to be installed on the Caterpillar D9 bulldozers.
In 2017, the Israeli military purchased dozens of Caterpillar heavy engineering vehicles, in a huge deal, estimated at tens of millions of NIS and financed by US foreign aid, between the Israeli military and Caterpillar Company.
The Israeli military Engineering Corps holds and operates hundreds of Caterpillar excavators and bulldozers. Their importance to Israeli military tactics is rising steadily and a Caterpillar’s operation of mechanical engineering equipment course is part of specialized training in the Israeli military.
Caterpillar military wheel loaders are also used as a crowd control weapon. In 21 February 2020, a Caterpillar military bulldozer was used to attack Palestinian protesters in the West Bank village of Kufr Qaddum. Two protesters were injured.
In March 2019, the Israeli military deployed “Doobi” armored Caterpillar D9s against protestors in the Great March of Return protests near the Gaza wall.
Other Caterpillar Military Engineering Tools
Other than the D9, Caterpillar supplies a variety of heavy engineering machinery to the Israeli army: various wheel loaders; 225, 245 and 330 armored excavators; and the Front Runner – a remote controlled mini loader built on the chassis of a Caterpillar MTL 257B (also known as the MiniCat) and modified by Israel Aerospace Industries into a fully remote-controlled Combat Engineering tool which is mainly in use at the Wall surrounding the besieged Gaza.
The Front Runner is another product of the fruitful collaboration between Zoko Enterprises and the Ramta Division. According to the Israeli Engineering Corps, the armored Caterpillar excavators took part in house demolitions, in the destruction of the Mukataa in Ramallah in 2002 and in the Israeli army’s 2006 raid on the Palestinian prison in Jericho.
The local distributor of Caterpillar equipment to the Israeli army, Zoko Enterprises, also provides the maintenance, spare parts and storage services for the machinery.
Moreover, during the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2014, Zoko employees were deployed in the battle front as part of their maintenance work. As part of an agreement with the company, when the Israeli military declares a state of emergency, the company becomes a military unit whose employees are recruited as a maintenance force and placed in the framework of their reserve service.
Caterpillar equipment was used for the construction of the Israeli wall surrounding Gaza. Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozers are constantly in operation in the area surrounding Gaza as well as inside Gaza. In April 2021, Israeli military armored Caterpillar bulldozers invaded Palestinian lands, east of Gaza.
In February 2020, the Israeli military was documented using an armored bulldozer to drag and move the body of Mohammed Ali al-Naim, 27, who was killed by Israeli forces, east of Khan Younis, south of Gaza. The bulldozer went into Gaza, accompanied by a military tank, in order to take Naim’s body out of Gaza. According to publications the bulldozer used was identified as manufactured by Caterpillar.
D9s were extensively in the Israeli military attack on Gaza in 2014. D9s accompanied military tanks into Gaza and destroyed buildings, orchards, agricultural fields, greenhouses and water infrastructure. They were also used for military activities such as building rampart enclosures.
Caterpillar machinery used as weapon
In July 2016, Israeli forces used a Caterpillar excavator in the apparent extrajudicial execution of Muhammad al-Faqih, using Caterpillar equipment employed as a weapon in the town of Surif, near the city of Hebron. The house was demolished with al-Faqih still inside, using a Bagger E-349 Armored Caterpillar Excavator, a weaponized version of Caterpillar’s model 349E Hydraulic Excavator.
In August 2014, Israeli forces 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. Al-Aqra was killed, six of his relatives were wounded and the house was badly damaged during the operation.
Caterpillar’s engineering machinery was also used by civilian companies for the construction of a large number of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Revava, Maskiot, Oranit, Carmel, Elkana, Yakir and Beitar Illit in the West Bank and the Ramat Shlomo settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
Caterpillar machinery was also used in various projects serving the settlements, such as road construction, the Ariel West and Barkan industrial zones, the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem high speed railway and the headquarters of the Judea and Samaria District of the Israel Police, located in the E1 area near Ma’ale Adumim settlement. The models used for these tasks are: 330B, 330BL and 936. On 4 February 2017, the company was documented paving a new settler-only road in the West Bank, the Nabi Elias bypass road. Approximately 700 olive trees belonging to Palestinians in the area are slated to be uprooted for the construction of the road.
Parts of the construction of the Separation Wall and checkpoints in the West Bank was also executed using Caterpillar heavy machinery. The company’s loaders and excavators were documented during works on the land of the Palestinian villages of Mas’ha, Al-Walaja, Qalandiya, Jayous, Ras al-Tira, Khirbet Jbara and Wadi a-Rasha and during the construction of the Anabta and Qalandiya checkpoints. The models used for these tasks are: 330C, 330CL, 345B, 345D, 936 and D10N.
In previous years, wheel loaders manufactured by the company were used by the Israeli army for creating roadblocks or for demolishing access roads leading to Palestinian villages in the area of Qarawat Bani Hassan, and various locations around the South Hebron Hills. The roadblocks were created using the 938G wheel loader and military loaders. In addition, Caterpillar track excavators and wheel loaders were used for the demolition of Palestinian houses.
In January 2022, Caterpillar tools were used in demolitions of residential tents of three families and hundreds of dunams of crops and farming roads in the area of Khirbet Ibziq, and in demolitions of 9 structures, including 3 housing units inhabited by three families, leaving 18 people, including 11 minors, homeless, in Masafer Yatta.
In 2021, Caterpillar tools were used in demolitions of tents, solar panels, animal shelters, water tanks, roads and for blockade of agricultural roads in South Hebron Hills, and in house demolition in East Jerusalem. In June 2021, D9 bulldozer destroyed roads and a water pipe that serves 15 families who live in South Hebron Hills.
The company’s tools also participated in additional demolitions in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina and Tsur Baher in East Jerusalem and in the South Hebron Hills area.
In January 2022, Caterpillar bulldozers were used in an afforestation project of the Jewish National Fund, taking place on the lands of the village of Sa’we al-Atrash in the Naqab. The project is part of ongoing attempts, implemented jointly by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and Israel’s Land Authority. For more on this project and others being implemented in the Naqab read our interactive report dispossession and displacement of Palestinian Bedouin communities in the area.
Caterpillar machinery was also used in the repeated demolitions in Al-Araqib unrecognized village in the Naqab, that has been demolished by the Israeli authorities and rebuilt by its residents more than a hundred times in the last few years. Also in this case, the village residents are facing displacement in the face of an afforestation project by the JNF. Caterpillar bulldozers with JNF logo were documented in the village.