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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 February 2007, 15:12 GMT
Israel confirms new forces chief
Maj Gen Gabi Ashkenazi (file image)
Gen Ashkenazi takes over as the army comes under close scrutiny
The Israeli cabinet has approved the appointment of Maj Gen Gabi Ashkenazi as the new head of its armed forces.

Gen Ashkenazi, 52, will replace Lt Gen Dan Halutz, who resigned last month amid criticism of the army's handling of last year's conflict with Hezbollah.

A former deputy chief of staff, Gen Ashkenazi has been director-general of the defence ministry since 2005.

His appointment comes at a time of rising violence in Gaza and growing concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Gen Ashkenazi was a "valuable commander who has proven reliable... There is no doubt that he will be able to lead the [Israel Defence Forces], confront the challenges facing the army and ensure the safety of Israel".

Lebanon shadow

Gen Ashkenazi joined the elite Golani infantry brigade in 1972, rising through its ranks to become its commander.

In 1976, he took part in a daring commando raid to free Jewish and Israeli hostages held at Entebbe, Uganda.

Gen Ashkenazi became commander of Israel's northern military region in 1998.

Four years later he was appointed the military's deputy chief of staff, but resigned in 2005 when Gen Halutz was given the top job.

Gen Ashkenazi's first mission will be to restore public confidence hard-hit by the war in Lebanon.

Israel attacked the Lebanon-based Hezbollah after the group captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid last July.

But it failed to free the soldiers or destroy Hezbollah before a ceasefire ended the fighting in August.

About 1,000 Lebanese were killed in the conflict, mostly civilians in Israel's vast bombardment of the country and land invasion in the south.

The Israeli army lost 116 soldiers. Forty-three Israeli civilians were also killed by more than 4,000 Hezbollah rocket attacks.

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