Israeli Soldiers Walk off Base to Protest Routine Camp Duties

Sixteen Israeli soldiers who had just returned from nine months of duty in the Gaza Strip walked off the job last Thursday to protest their grievances and were declared absent without leave.

The men, who voluntarily returned to their base Sunday morning for a disciplinary hearing, were sentenced by a panel of officers to between 25 and 28 days in the stockade.

But their action received wide attention in the news media. The men had been in Rafah, at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, where some of the worst rioting of the past year occurred last week.

All are veteran soldiers, reportedly with good service records, who belong to a company formed especially to serve in the administered territories.

They complained that despite their training and skills, they had to perform many routine camp duties in addition to their day and night operational patrols.

They told reporters that after trying without success to have senior officers hear their grievances, they decided to go AWOL. They reportedly expressed regret to their brigade commander before the hearings.

But the men may have made their point. An army spokesman said Sunday that a senior officer would take “a closer look” at “all aspects of the affair.”

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