October 30, 2003
Israel Top General Speaks Out, Mideast violence continues

Israel's top-ranking soldier believes that hard-line policies against the Palestinians are working against Israel's strategic interest and contributed to the downfall of the previous Palestinian prime minister, the Israeli media have reported. As the cycle of violence continued unabated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a row between the Israeli army and government over how to end it was growing deeper.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was believed to be furious about the comments, attributed to military chief of staff Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon, Israeli television stations reported.

Leading Israeli newspapers carried the comments, attributing them to a senior military official. The media named him as General Yaalon, who made the remarks to Israeli journalists at a briefing on Tuesday.

Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli columnist with the daily Yediot Ahronot, quoted a military official as saying comprehensive travel restrictions and curfews on Palestinians were harming Israel's overall security.

"It increases hatred for Israel and strengthens the terror organisations," Barnea wrote, quoting the official.

A 12-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli troops in the Nablus refugee camp of Balata Wednesday night, Palestinian medical sources said. The soldiers opened fire when the boy threw stones at their jeep inside the camp.

General Yaalon also said that Israel should have eased punitive measures to bolster the fortunes of Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned on September 6 after only four months as Palestinian prime minister.

"There is no hope, no expectations for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, nor in Bethlehem and Jericho," Barnea quoted the military official as saying. "In our tactical decisions, we are operating contrary to our strategic interest."

Mr Sharon has said that Palestinian violence must stop before political negotiations can begin, and he has supported tough military action since he came to power in March 2001.

In previous public statements, General Yaalon had supported strong military action.

After a Palestinian suicide bombing killed 21 people on October 4 in Haifa, all Palestinians were barred from entering Israel and most in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were confined to their home towns. Israel eased the restrictions on Wednesday, permitting 4000 Palestinians to enter Israel.

Posted by tstubbs at October 30, 2003 10:06 AM | Trackback
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