Monday, August 6, 2007

IDF to try troops who refuse to evacuate Hebron market


I wish I could say that these men would find justice in the courts, but we all know they won’t. G-d willing, when the government changes hands, these men will be the generals, Prime Ministers, and Presidents of Israel.

Aug. 6, 2007 8:17 | Updated Aug. 6, 2007 15:34

OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni decided on Monday that 12 soldiers who refused to participate in the planned evacuation of the Hebron marketplace would be tried on disciplinary charges and will not serve in any combat position in the future.

Two of the 12 soldiers who announced their refusal were squad commanders.

Shamni noted in his decision that the soldiers' refusal to comply undermined the foundations of the IDF and that the army would continue to obey the orders of the political echelon.

Earlier Monday, Israel Radio reported that a group of soldiers had refused to take part in the evacuation of two Jewish families.

Some of them made the decision after being encouraged to do so by their rabbis.

The soldiers were meant to be placed in the third circle of security, whose job would involve protecting police from the local Palestinian population during the evacuation which is scheduled for Tuesday.

The evacuation itself is meant to be executed by police and Border Police troops.

Some soldiers decided to disobey orders outright, while about 10 were able to get sick leave beforehand in order to avoid taking part on the mission.

The reports of soldiers planning to disobey orders sparked strong responses from those for and against it.

Parents of the soldiers who are scheduled to take part in the evacuation protested outside their son's bases holding up signs saying "Son, do not expel."

Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said: "The army must not tolerate any refusals; we must deal with these cases harshly."

Meanwhile, Women in Green announced: "We support the soldiers who refuse to banish Jews in Hebron."

A total of 3,000 security personnel were scheduled participate in the removal of settlers who arrived at two stalls next to the Avraham Avinu complex.

The army has been trying to come to an agreement with the settlers so as not to resort to physical force while evacuating them. Some protestors who had consulted with their rabbis decided not to leave voluntarily, said the report.

Settlers claimed that they left the area a year and a half ago after being promised by the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division commander that they would be permitted to return when legal proceedings came to an end.

The Hebron Jewish community and its attorney, former justice minister Yaakov Neeman, appealed to Defense Minister Ehud Barak not to evacuate the families. Legal appeals to prove the families' right to live there have failed.

In their letters to Barak, Neeman and the Hebron Jewish community said the marketplace was owned by Jews and had been operated by them prior to the 1929 Hebron massacre that destroyed the Jewish community.

Following the War of Independence in 1948, Jordan took control and gave it to the Custodian of Abandoned Properties. The market was leased to the Hebron Municipality, which allowed the merchants to stay. That situation continued after Israel reclaimed the area in 1967.

The Palestinian merchants were expelled in 1994 and the shops remained empty until 2001, when Jews moved in. In September 2006, two Jewish families returned to the empty shops.

In his letter to Barak, Neeman said it was illogical to ask Jewish families to leave property that was owned by Jews, in the name of an empty marketplace that had not been operational for 13 years, and for which there was no plan to release to Palestinian merchants.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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