August 01, 2006

Israeli Soldier sentenced to 28 days for refusing to serve in Lebanon

by Amos Harel, Yuli Khromchenko, Lily Galili, Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern
The first person to refuse to do army service during the current fighting was sentenced Sunday to 28 days in a military prison. According to the refusal organization Yesh Gvul, which issued a public statement Sunday urging others to follow in Amir Fester's footsteps, more than 10 other people have contacted the organization about the possibility of refusing to serve.

While some of them have answered reserve duty call-ups and are participating in military training, they have said that they will not take part in the fighting, according to organization spokesman Yishai Menuchin.

Sunday's bombing in Qana sparked an immediate surge in Israeli opposition to the fighting in Lebanon. Spontaneous demonstrations and petitions were organized within hours, and drew more people than the organized demonstrations of the previous two weeks.

One of the demonstrations, organized by senior officials from Meretz, took place in front of the Defense Ministry compound in the Kirya in Tel Aviv.

Dozens of members and top officials of the party protested despite Meretz's official position, which for the moment is one supporting the Lebanon offensive.

Demonstrators held signs which read, "Cease-fire now," calling for immediate negotiations with Lebanon and Syria. Another sign was emblazoned with, "We are a strong but thinking homefront."

"We wanted to protest the foolishness of this war," attorney Yifat Solel, who also serves on the Meretz board of directors, told Haaretz. "It's obvious that a military operation would cause the harming of innocents, and that the most significant achievement would be reached only through diplomatic negotiations."

More than 600 people, including Israeli professors and senior Meretz party officials, have signed an international petition calling for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. Among the signatories to this petition is former Meretz MKs Naomi Chazan.

Thousands protest in Umm al-Fahm against war
Thousands of Israeli Arabs took to the streets of Umm al-Fahm on Sunday evening to protest the war in Lebanon following the bombing of the village of Qana.

Demonstrators shouted "Israel is a terrorist state," and, "the people of Gaza and Lebanon won't surrender."

In the Galilee, dozens of Ta'al activists demonstrated against the war and waved signs that read: "Peretz, Olmert and Rice are responsible for war crimes."

Left-wing factions of Knesset on Sunday denounced the Israel Air Force strike on the Lebanese village of Qana that left 54 people dead.

MK Mohhamed Barakeh (Hadash) said the only result of the offensive being waged by Olmert and Peretz in Lebanon is a series of war crimes. "The government has decided to carry out massacres in Gaza and Lebanon under the protection of the U.S."

Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin said the large number of civilian casualties at Qana proves that prolonging the campaign in Lebanon won't help obtain the operation's objectives.

Beilin added that no Israel Defense Forces statement could justify the pictures of innocent casualties, nor the reality that another strike like this could happen again.

MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) called for negotiations, adding "what happened there is a humanitarian disaster that no one intended, but the outcome is a black flag."

MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) said that Rice's 'smart bombs' and Halutz's praised pilots' have caused a horrendous and foreseeable war crime. "Bush, Peretz, and Olmert bear the responsibility for this brutal parade of corpses," he added.

MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said Israel has declared war on the citizens of Lebanon, adding "those resopnsible for the massacre are guilty of a war crime and should stand trial before the international Criminal Tribunal in the Hague."

Balad is to hold an anti-war demonstration outside the Knesset on Monday.


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