World Tribune.com

Israel demotes dissident intelligence officer

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Tuesday, January 28, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel's air force has transferred a junior intelligence officer who refused to cooperate with an order to bomb Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military sources said an officer with the rank of first lieutenant was removed from his position in air force intelligence after he refused to provide information on Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip earlier this month. The officer was said to have protested plans by the air force to attack targets in civilian areas, Middle East Newsline reported.

Last year, an Israeli group, Gush Shalom, warned Israeli officers that it was monitoring their involvement in military attacks on Palestinian targets. The group said it planned to relay the identities of those officers for prosecution by international tribunals on war crimes.

The episode took place in the hours following a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in which the ruling Fatah movement as well as Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the air force to prepare a range of Palestinian insurgency targets in retaliation for the suicide bombings, which killed 23 people on Jan. 5.

The Israeli intelligence officer said he objected to the air bombing of an unidentified Palestinian Authority target. The military sources said the officer, arguing that collateral damage would kill Palestinian civilians, withheld information that delayed an immediate air force retaliation.

Later, when the target was no longer regarded as suitable, the officer offered to cooperate. The officer's commander ordered him transferred to an administrative position.

"The officer was removed after he refused a direct order and harmed the operation," an Israeli military spokesman said.

The Tel Aviv-based Maariv daily said the air force was considering a courtmartial. But the service feared that this would have resulted in the release of intelligence.

On Tuesday, Palestinian sources said three Palestinians were killed in a blast in Gaza City. They said the blast took place at the home of a leading Hamas insurgent and attributed the explosion to an Israeli air attack. An Israeli military spokesman said the air force was not operating in the area overnight Tuesday.

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