Caterpillar Inc., also known as CAT, is 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.
The company sells its products under the brands Caterpillar, CAT, EMD, FG Wilson, MaK, MWM, Perkins, Progress Rail, SEM and Solar Turbines.
Caterpillar in service of the Israeli military
The company’s machinery 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. Caterpillar 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 military 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 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.
Armored D9 bulldozers are used by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank to accompany military forces during invasions and military arrests in populated areas. On 3 July 2023, D9 bulldozers were documented causing severe damage during the Israeli military onslaught on the Jenin Refugee Camp. The D9 bulldozers were used to destroy roads, damaging all the electricity and water networks in the refugee camp. On 24 July 2023, D9 were documented in military invasion to the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarem.
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 military 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.
On 26 July 2023, a CAT bulldozer was documented used by Israeli military to destroy irrigation system in the Palestinian village of al-Hijrah, south of Hebron. Israeli Civil Administration (ICA) personnel arrived with a military and Border Police escort, a CAT bulldozer and a cement mixer at the Palestinian village of al-Hijrah, south of Hebron. The forces poured concrete into four water wells and destroyed a roughly 20-meter-long pipe used to irrigate crops, damaging the crops themselves along the way.
On 25 January 2023, CAT bulldozer were documented in the demolition of two agricultural structures, two solar panels and two trees belonging to a family of ten, in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Ma’in, southeast of the town of Yatta in Hebron District. ICA personnel came with a military and Border Police escort, a bulldozer and a digger, dismantled and confiscated a tent the family had put up on its land for resting during the olive harvest.
On 3 January 2023, CAT crawler digger was used by Israeli military to demolish homes of four families and an outhouse in the village of She’b al-Battem in the South Hebron Hills, leaving 36 people, 12 of them minors, homeless. Four water tanks belonging to the four families, and six smaller water tanks belonging to two of them were also destroyed.
On 24 August 2022, CAT bulldozer was used in demolitions in Wadi al-Ahmar community in the southern Jordan Valley. ICA personnel with a CAT bulldozer destroyed two inhabited tents that housed two families numbering 10 people in total, including four minors; demolished a tent used as a kitchen; a livestock enclosure; and a solar panel belonging to one of the families. Six additional residential tents uninhabited this time of the year, a livestock pen, and three tents used as livestock enclosures, which were not currently in use, were destroyed.
On 16 August 2022, A CAT bulldozer was used in demolitions in Khirbet ‘Allan in the al-Jiftlik area of the Jordan Valley. ICA personnel arrived with a military forces and demolished two prefabs and a stone room that served as two residential units of a family of 11, including seven minor children, as well as an outdoor kitchen and portable toilets. The forces also destroyed another home that housed an adult son of the same family. In addition, the forces demolished three shacks used as livestock enclosures and two tin rooms used for making cheese, and damaged two water containers and livestock pen fences.
On 2 January 2022, Caterpillar bulldozers and D9 bulldozer destroyed hundreds of dunams of wheat and barley crops in Khirbet Ibziq in the Jordan Valley. Israeli military destroyed also other fields that had been plowed in preparation for sowing. The bulldozers also created dirt mounds on farmlands and destroyed farming access roads.
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 were also used in additional demolitions in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina and Tsur Baher in East Jerusalem.
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.