Feeling his men were vulnerable and
trigger-happy at their West Bank checkpoint, the Israeli army
reserve officer did the last thing anyone would have expected
of him -- he got up and left in protest.
The officer was on his way to a military jail Monday. But
before starting a 28-day term for abandoning his post near
Jerusalem at the weekend, he blasted his superiors in an Israel
"We have reached a situation where we shoot out of fear" at
Palestinians, said the officer, using the assumed name of Ilan.
Repeated Palestinian attacks against roadblocks, a hated
symbol of occupation, has troops more jittery than ever at the
risks of manning them as a Palestinian uprising enters its 18th
month. A raid last week killed six soldiers.
Discontent in the army ranks has been expressed in other
ways, including a petition signed by more than 280 reservists
pledging their refusal to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
on behalf of what they say is a morally corrupting occupation.
Sunday night, Israeli troops fired at the armored car of
Palestinian parliamentary speaker Ahmed Korei as it approached
a West Bank checkpoint.
Israel apologized for the incident, from which Korei
emerged unscathed. The army said the soldiers feared the car
was going to hit them.
"We use these bullets as a kind of shield, a wall, because
we don't have a wall or concrete to protect us ... in the end
the guys become trigger-happy and very jumpy," said Ilan, whose
rank was not given in the radio report.
OFFICER SAYS HE WARNED SUPERIORS
Ilan said he walked away after fruitless talks with
commanders on a lack of proper procedures which leave soldiers
scared for their own safety and make them dangerous to others.
"I am not prepared to go to the parents of one of the
soldiers and tell them -- your son died in such a way without a
block of concrete to protect him."
One of his superiors, Ilya Shifman, told the radio the army
often reviews security and investigates cases of misconduct.
"But it can't be the case that an officer gets up and
leaves the company without telling anyone," Shifman said.
The army also said last week it plans to remove many fixed
checkpoints and carry out surprise inspections along West Bank
roads to provide better security.
Dozens of Israeli military blockades cut through main
arteries throughout the West Bank and Gaza, isolating
Palestinian cities and villages.
Erected since the first Palestinian uprising in the late
1980s, Israel says they provide a barrier against gunmen and
suicide bombers. But Palestinians say the economically
crippling blockades mainly punish ordinary civilians.
Palestinians frequently complain of abuse or outright
violence by soldiers at the roadblocks. Some troops admit to
buckling under the daily pressure of confronting potential
assailants in a sea of civilians.
Monday, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man who
tried to circumvent a roadblock as he drove his pregnant wife
to hospital to give birth. The woman was wounded in the
In a separate incident, troops killed a 15-year-old girl
who they said ran at their roadblock waving a knife.
She left a suicide note, family members said.
"I have decided by God's will to (attack) those arrogants
at the damned checkpoint and kill them to teach them a lesson
that they have no security on our land," it said.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited