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Unprecedented surge in conscription refusals amid Gaza war: Israeli group

May 29, 2024 at 6:17 pm

Israeli army tanks are positioned in an area of Israel’s southern Israeli army soldiers are positioned in an area of Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip on May 29, 2024 [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

An Israeli left-wing movement reported on Wednesday an unprecedented rise in the number of Israelis refusing to serve in the military amid the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, Anadolu Agency reports.

The Israeli military imposes imprisonment on those who refuse conscription.

The Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit) group shared a statement on X featuring testimony from Sophia Or, one of the Israelis refusing military service.

“I am ready to continue paying the price and sit in prison if it prevents the dehumanisation from going on in complete silence. I must read, even from prison: they are human! (Palestinians),” said Or, who has served a prison sentence for refusing military service.

“There is a huge difference between an army that carries out justified missions … and an army (the Israeli military) whose entire activity is full of injustices,” she added.

Founded in 1982, Yesh Gvul is a political movement supporting refuseniks.

READ: ‘There is no time to waste’: UN Mideast envoy calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Rising numbers

According to the Israeli news site, Zman Yisrael, the movement reported a significant increase in the number of left-wing Israelis refusing to enlist in protest of the government’s policies towards Palestinians.

Infographic: ‘Israeli army carried out 3,222 massacres in the last 235 days in Gaza.’ 71% of those who lost their lives in the Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip were children and women. [Elif Acar/Anadolu Agency]

Yishai Menuchin, a spokesperson for the group, said they assisted around 40 soldiers who refused to enlist in the reserves.

Overall, Yesh Gvul received about 100 requests for assistance from individuals refusing military service.

Another left-wing group, Mesarvot, noted a sharp increase in the number of reservists seeking help, Zman Yisrael reported.

David Zonshein, founder of the Courage to Refuse movement, said that he received requests for help from dozens of refuseniks during the current Gaza war, especially in recent months, which is significantly more than in previous years.

In the early months of the war, the high number of conscripts, around 300,000, led to an increase in refusals, the news website said.

However, as the scale of reserve enlistment decreased significantly in recent months, the number of refuseniks continued to grow.

The website noted that this increase is attributed to the complexities of the war, war crimes, the growing protest against the government’s behaviour and both ideological and exhaustion-induced refuseniks.

At the end of April, around 30 reservists from the Paratroopers Brigade, called to serve in Rafah, announced their refusal to serve, it added.

There was no comment yet from the Israeli army on the report.

Israel has continued its brutal offensive on Gaza following a Hamas attack on 7 October, 2023, despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

More than 36,170 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, the vast majority being women and children, and over 81,400 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Nearly eight months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which in its latest rulings has ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on 6 May.

READ: Three Israel soldiers killed in combat in southern Gaza, military says