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13 Israeli Elite Commandos Join the "Refuseniks"

13 Israeli Elite Commandos Join the "Refuseniks"

GAZA -- In a new gesture of refusal of the Israeli oppressive policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, 13 soldiers of an elite Israeli military unit signed Sunday evening a letter refusing to serve in the Palestinian territories and objecting to their government's policies there.

The thirteen reservist soldiers and officers, of the Israeli "Sayeret Matkal" unit -the Israeli General Staff's elite special operations unit- signed a letter Sunday evening and delivered it to the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, in which they refused to serve in the Palestinian territories and continue to be a shield for the Jewish settlers there, reported Haaretz online edition.

"We say to you today, we will no longer give our hands to the oppressive reign in the territories and the denial of human rights to millions of Palestinians," reads the letter addressed to the Israeli Prime Minister, " and we will no longer serve as a defensive shield for the settlement enterprise."

Among the signatories were nine who still serve in the unit, and the most senior among them is an officer with the rank of a major.

The sudden declaration shook the ranks of the Israeli forces as well as the Israeli society itself, as the unit, which is renowned for its covert operations inside the Palestinian territories as well as in other parts of the world, has its distinguished weight and many prominent Israeli political and military figures served in this unit.

Several Israeli political analysts expected that with the declaration of members of this elite unit not to serve in the Palestinian territories, the wave of refusal among other "regular" Israeli military units is expected to grow.

Among the most memorable operations this unit had carried out was the Entebbe Airport operation in Uganda in 1976 and the assassination of the second man in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Khalil Al Wazeer (Abu Jihad) in 1988.

The letter from the "Sayeret Matkal" is the third such public declaration of Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in the territories, dubbed "refuseniks", since the outset of the Al Aqsa Intifada. In early 2002, the "Courage to Refuse" movement released a letter signed by reservist soldiers and officers refusing to serve in the Palestinian territories, which to date assigned by over 570 signatories. In September of this year, a group of Israeli Air Force pilots announced their refusal to carry out air strikes against Palestinian citizens.

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