Israel jails two soldiers for opposing settler evacuation

Israel jails two soldiers for opposing settler evacuation

Two Israeli soldiers were sentenced to 30 days in jail on Monday for refusing to take part in the evacuation of a wildcat Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, a military spokesman said, AFP reported.

The two soldiers of the Naschshon battalion held up a sign opposing the operation and "refused to follow orders" at the outpost near the Palestinian city of Hebron, he said.

They were "tried by the brigade commander on account of refusing to follow orders and unbecoming behaviour," the spokesman said.

He said the two soldiers were sentenced to 30 days in military prison, permanently dismissed from any command or combat positions within the Israeli army and demoted.

"Political demonstrations within the military framework are highly frowned upon," the spokesman said in a statement. "Such acts damage the strength and unity of the combat unit."

Twenty-five Israeli reservists, including some officers, have signed a petition asking that they not have to take part in any evacuation of Jewish settlements, army radio reported last week.

On October 22, two Kfir Brigade conscripts held up banners expressing solidarity with Jewish settlers in the West Bank during their swearing-in ceremony in Jerusalem.

A military court sentenced them to 20 days in prison.

To avoid clashes between settlers and troops, police and border guard units are being tasked with the actual evacuations, with soldiers not directly involved but deployed around the sites.

The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the thorniest in the decades-long Israeli-Arab conflict and the main stumbling block in stalled US efforts to restart peace negotiations.

Settlement outposts built without authorisation are considered illegal under Israeli law. The international community considers all established settlements and the more than 100 so-called outposts illegal.

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