A reservist colonel in the Israeli army has resigned his commission in protest at his army’s “immoral conduct” in the occupied territories. In a searing open letter to the army’s chief of staff, Lt-Col Eitan Ronel, a veteran of 1973’s Yom Kippur War, the invasion of Lebanon, and the first Palestinian Intifada, returned his officer’s commission.

His resignation came even as five teenage conscripts were yesterday sentenced to a year in prison each for refusing to serve in the Israeli army “as long as it acts as an army of occupation”. Scores of reservists have refused to report for duty for similar reasons, and many of them have been sentenced to prison terms, but Lt-Col Ronel, 51, is believed to be the first Israeli officer to resign his commission in protest.

In his letter to the chief of staff, Lt-Col Ronel, who was released from active reserve duty two years ago, wrote that for him, the final straw had been when Israeli soldiers opened fire last week on unarmed protestors demonstrating against the “separation fence” Israel is building in the West Bank. Among the injured was an Israeli civilian, Gil Naamati, whose case provoked a storm of controversy in Israel.

“A country in which the army disperses demonstrations of its citizens with live gunfire is not a democratic country,” Lt-Col Ronel wrote. “An army that educates its soldiers that such a crime is conceivable has lost all its borders…


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