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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Israel general 'avoids UK arrest'
Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza strip
The warrant relates to the bulldozing of more than 50 houses
The former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip has told how he dodged arrest on war crimes charges after receiving a tip-off at Heathrow.

Major General Doron Almog is accused of breaching international laws during Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip.

He said he had flown straight home after the Israeli military attache had warned him not to leave his El Al jet.

Lawyers acting for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said a UK court had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Solicitors Hickman and Rose said the 54-year-old had been due to be arrested on suspicion of committing a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949, which is a criminal offence in the UK under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

Senior District Judge Timothy Workman had given the police authority to detain Maj Gen Almog during a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates' Court in central London, the law firm added.

The warrant relates to the bulldozing of more than 50 houses in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, when Maj Gen Almog was head of Israel's Southern Command.

It was seen as retaliation for an assault by Islamic militants on an Israeli Army post that left four soldiers dead.

He told me not to get off the plane
Maj Gen Almog

Also under Maj Gen Almog's command, Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on a Hamas leader's home, killing the man, an assistant and 14 civilians, nine of them children.

Maj Gen Almog said he had arrived at Heathrow for a three-day visit to raise money for a centre in Israel for brain-damaged children.

"We were about to get off the plane, then one of the stewards came up to me and said the pilot asked that I disembark last," he told Israeli Army Radio.

"After some time, the chief steward said the Israeli military attache was on his way and wanted to speak to me.

"I phoned him and he told me not to get off the plane."

This was definitely malicious litigation
Former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry Robbie Sable

He and his wife had remained on the plane and flown back to Israel on its return, Maj Gen Almog added.

Any Israeli officer could now be arrested in Britain simply for having performed their duty, he said.

"They could do this tomorrow to any officer who has served in the Israeli army over the past five years and has fought the hard fight against terror."

But former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry Robbie Sable said it was unlikely Maj Gen Almog would have been arrested.

"Courts in organised countries do not act on malicious litigation and this was definitely malicious litigation," he added.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was taking the incident seriously and seeking clarification from British authorities.

Officials at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv refused to comment.

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