Israeli navy commander resigns

Israel Materials 27 July 2007 13:12 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - The Israeli navy commander, Admiral David Ben Bashat, has resigned his post over failures during last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, senior security officials said Thursday.

Ben Bashat is just the latest high-ranking Israeli to step down after the inconclusive war, in which Hezbollah fired almost 4,000 rockets at northern Israel despite a full-scale offensive of Israeli ground, sea and air forces.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz resigned earlier, as did the army chief of staff during the conflict, Dan Halutz, and an area military commander. The war also cost Prime Minister Ehud Olmert most of his public support, and he faces pressure to step down.

A government inquiry's preliminary report on April 30 heaped scathing criticism on some senior officials but directed its sharpest barbs at Olmert, blaming him for hasty decisions and failure to set out attainable objectives.

The navy's main failure during the war was a Hezbollah missile attack on a navy missile boat that killed four sailors. Since Israel did not believe Hezbollah had weapons to attack its ships, the navy did not activate the on-board anti-missile system.

The inquiry commission is expected to present its final report by early next year. The incident with the missile boat is likely to be considered, with harsh conclusions about the navy command.

The security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not been made public, said Ben Bashat would stay on until a new commander is ready to replace him, probably by October. He directed Israel's navy for three years.

Ben Bashat, 53, worked his way up through the ranks of the navy after joining in 1969. He served as defense attache in Singapore and graduated from the Newport Naval War College, according to his official biography.