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Israeli Army Reserve Officers Criticize Behavior of Soldiers in Quelling Riots on West Bank

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Israelis reacted with concern to allegations by six army reserve officers yesterday severely critical of the behavior of Israeli soldiers in quelling demonstrations by Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The officers, ranging in rank from lieutenant to major, all with distinguished combat records accused the government of sending incompletely trained recruits into the trouble areas of the occupied territories without riot control equipment, except firearms which they sometimes used indiscriminately with fatal results.

The officers, who appeared at a press conference arranged by the Peace Now movement, declined to give details of specific instances. They said they provided details to the army’s chief legal officer after their request for a meeting with Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was refused.

The Defense Ministry said today it would hold a full scale investigation of the charges and study the evidence submitted to the army adjutant general.

SOLDIERS SAID TO PANIC

According to the officers, recruits confronted by stone-throwing Arabs, have no means of defending themselves except with weapons. Although standing orders require them to fire at the legs of the demonstrators, they often “panic” and fire directly into crowds. Since last March at least 15 Arabs, mostly teenagers, have been fatally shot by Israeli troops and many more have been wounded, some seriously. The officers said that very often the victims are innocent by-standers, the stone-throwers having fled the scene.

The officers also condemned the behavior of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, charging that they harass and physically abuse local Arabs and open fire on them from jeeps or buses. According to one officer, the settlers “create an atmosphere and arouse anger and are influencing events.” He also said they relate poorly to the soldiers sent to the territories to protect them.

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