World News

Israeli soldiers protest razing of settler homes

A Jewish settler moves a window after a house was demolished at an outpost near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Negohot November 16, 2009. According to witnesses, several structures were demolished by Israeli authorities on Monday at an outpost that Israel considers illegal. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A group of Israeli soldiers disobeyed orders Monday to help in the dismantling of several structures that Jewish settlers had built without government authorization in the occupied West Bank.

A military spokeswoman said two of the soldiers were sent to prison for 30 days and permanently dismissed from command or combat positions. Several others were still being investigated, the spokeswoman said.

The mutiny followed a similar incident last month that raised concern in Israel about rebellion in the ranks of soldiers opposed on religious or political grounds to any settler evacuation in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

“It should be emphasized that the soldiers’ actions were fundamentally wrong and contradictory to the (military’s) core values,” an army statement said about Monday’s events.

A Reuters photographer at the scene, a settler-outpost erected without government permission outside the West Bank town of Hebron, said two wooden houses were dismantled by police.

The area was secured by soldiers from an infantry battalion, some of whom “did not follow orders given to them,” the army spokeswoman said, declining to provide exact numbers. The YNet news Web site said six soldiers were relieved of duty.

Last month, a group of conscripts disrupted their swearing-in ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, calling for continued Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Palestinians say settlements could deny them a viable state.

The military said two soldiers were sentenced to 20 days in jail for their actions at the holy site and removed permanently from the unit.

In a report Sunday that stirred debate in Israel, the Haaretz newspaper said the chief military chaplain, Brigadier-General Avichai Rontzki, told religious conscripts last week to show no mercy toward their enemies.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Diana Abdallah