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SERVICES 
Friday, 1 February, 2002, 00:09 GMT
Israel suspends rebel reservists
Israeli tanks in the West Bank
The reservists opposed "the oppression of Palestinians"
By the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Jerusalem

Three Israeli army reserve officers who signed a petition refusing to serve in the occupied territories have been suspended from their duties.

They were among more than 50 reservists from combat units who said they were willing to defend the state of Israel but not to take part in what they called the oppression of the Palestinians.


We were raised to be officers with values and they have turned us into combatants who deal in bloodshed and war crimes

Petition signatory
Military service is compulsory in Israel, and men are required to serve in the reserves for over a month each year unless they have a special exemption.

The petition, published by the reserve soldiers over the weekend, is continuing to make waves in Israel and to worry its military establishment.

Among the 52 people who signed were officers from parachute regiments and other elite brigades who said they were not willing to fight for the purpose of "dominating, expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people".

It is the most significant rebellion in army ranks since the latest intifada began.

The army chief of staff has described it as a very grave matter.

'Strength not undermined'

A military spokesman told the BBC: you do not expect your own people to break the consensus in a time of war.

But he said it would not undermine the strength of the Israeli army.

The objectors themselves are not talking to the international media for fear of fuelling claims that they are traitors.

But they have told local papers stories of shooting and abusing Palestinian civilians, and of army lies and cover-ups.

Disillusioned

One of the signatories said: "We were raised to be officers with values and they have turned us into combatants who deal in bloodshed and war crimes."

Terrible things, he said, had become routine.

The objectors are now hoping their campaign will gain momentum.

They are continuing to gather more signatures for their petition as the army says hundreds of reservists have now signed up to a counter-campaign.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"A counter campaign is now under way"
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Middle East
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31 Jan 02 | Middle East
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31 Jan 02 | Middle East
Militants shot dead in Gaza
04 Jul 01 | Middle East
Israel army given freer rein
11 Nov 99 | Crossing Continents
Dodging Israel's draft
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