Though Jewish customs prohibit raising pigs, the "swine-brigade" has received the approval of prominent rabbis.

The pigs – trained to detect explosives and attackers - would be expected to supplement armed guards and watchdogs.

The novel idea was mooted by an organisation called the Hebrew Battalion.

The organisation supplied watchdogs to illegal West Bank settlements and now wants to supply guard pigs as well. 

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported prominent rabbis, including Rabbi Dov Lior of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, have sanctioned the organisation's proposal to use swine in a security role.

Serious plans

Hebrew Battalion insists the proposal is serious. 

"Pigs have a sense of smell which is several times more developed than that of dogs," Yakutiel Ben-Yaakov, the organisation's director told Israeli media.

He argued the animals would be able to detect the presence of weapons from huge distances and walk in the direction of an attacker, thereby pointing him out.

"Special trainers, whom we will bring in, will train them to patrol around settlements and to locate terrorists in hiding," Ben-Yaakov said.

He also said the pigs on patrol could deter Palestinian attackers, since Muslims consider them religiously unclean.