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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 November, 2004, 10:07 GMT
Former Israeli army chief drowns
Raphael Eitan
After a long military career Eitan founded a right-wing political party
Former Israeli Army Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan has drowned after being swept into the Mediterranean Sea at the Israeli post of Ashdod.

Mr Eitan, who was 75, was an army general and the founder and leader of Tzomet, a nationalist and hawkish political party.

Israeli media reports say Mr Eitan was working on a port renewal project when he was swept off a breakwater.

He was lost in rough seas for more than an hour, Israeli Army Radio reported.

When his body was pulled out of the water, attempts to revive him failed.

The exact circumstances of Mr Eitan's death are not known, and Israel's Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit has ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the incident.

Military and political career

Mr Eitan served in the Israeli military for 37 years and was army chief from 1978 to 1983.

He fought in the war that followed the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, in the Sinai 1956, in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

After leaving the army, he formed the ultranationalist Tzomet party, which later joined the Likud party of current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

He served as agriculture and environment minister in the 1990s.

Mr Eitan was politically right-wing and opposed the handing over of land to Palestinians as part of peace talks.

He often used blunt language. He once said: "When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle."

Mr Eitan was also criticised by the Kahan Commission, which investigated the massacre of Palestinian refugees by an Israeli-allied Christian militia during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

The Commission said he should have anticipated the danger and opposed sending the Christians into the camp.

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