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Israeli officials angered by refuseniks

The letter sent from 43 veteran reserves in the elite Israeli intelligence unit 8200 caused a wave of anger among Israeli officials, including the president, prime minister, defence minister and top security officials.

In a letter sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top state officials, 43 reserves wrote: "We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories."

They said the Israeli military was using them to practice "political persecution" against the Palestinians, as they spy on all personal Palestinian communications.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin strongly criticised the letter. Israeli media reported him saying: "A small group of soldiers and officers in this unit defamed the overwhelming majority of the unit, which works for Israel's security."

Chairman of the Israeli Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said: "The letter about refusing military service, singed by a group of reserves in intelligence unit 8200, is a mere political declaration that defies the Israeli army at the time Israel is being subject to strong global criticism. This means it lacks understanding of circumstance of our life."

He wrote on Twitter: "This work serves the agenda of Israel's enemies."

Chief of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee in the Israeli Knesset Ze'ev Elkin said: "This is a knife in the back of the Israeli Defence Forces… The signatories of this letter did not take part in the Gaza War and they are not acquainted with the facts."

Spokesman of the Israeli army Moti Almoz views "severely" the use of service in the military as a platform to express political opinions and said the "disciplinary measures will be loud and clear".

Meanwhile, representative of the Labour Party Merav Michaeli told Israeli Radio "the refusal of military service is not the right way [to protest], but it is necessary to check the reasons which pushed them to live this dilemma."

It has been reported recently that refusing military service among Israeli soldiers occurred on numerous occasions recently. During the Israeli war on Gaza, a group of soldiers protested against spending days inside tanks and others refused to take part in ground battle.

 

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