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Israeli military chief warned not to visit UK over arrest threat

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Sept. 16, IRNA
Israel's current chief-of-staff General Dan Halutz was reported Friday to have been warned to avoid visiting the UK due to possible arrest for war crimes charges.

Israeli officials were said to have received information that lawyers in London acting for Palestinian clients were seeking warrants against Halutz and former Israeli military chief, Moshe Yaalon, who has already cancelled a UK trip for fears of arrest.

The warning comes after retired Israeli Major General Doron Almog evaded arrest by remaining on his El Al plane when he flew into London's Heathrow airport last Sunday after a war crimes warrant was issued.

According to the Guardian newspaper Friday, Israeli foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, described the arrest threat as "scandalous" and is planning to press the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, for a change in the law that makes such warrants possible.

Aides of Ariel Sharon were also quoted saying that the Israeli leader was considering raising the issue at a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair at the UN in New York on Thursday.

The warrant issued against Almog, who was the army commander in Gaza until 2003, accused him of war crimes for the demolition of 59 houses in the Rafah refugee camp.

Yaalon, who retired as a major general in June, called off a planned his visit to the UK for a fundraising event for an Israeli soldiers' welfare association this weekend after officials received information that warrants were being sought against him and Halutz.

But both men could face charges over the Israeli army's policy of mass house demolitions in the Gaza Strip in breach of international law and for the so-called "targeted killings" of Palestinians that have resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths.

Yaalon and Gen Halutz were also said to have both been involved in the decision in 2002 to drop a one-ton bomb on a Gaza City residential neighborhood to kill the Hamas military chief, Salah Shehadeh, in which 14 civilians, mostly children were killed. The bomb killed 14 civilians, most of them children.

The Guardian reported that the warrant against Almog was sought by Israeli-British lawyer, Daniel Machover, who said he pursued the case in London because Israel's high court has ruled that the Geneva conventions do not apply in the occupied territories and that the demolitions are legal under regulations inherited from British rule.

"It's not possible for victims of punitive house demolitions to get a remedy in Israel. They've attempted to do that many many times.

The only cases we have taken on are for clients who have sought and failed to get a remedy in the Israeli courts," Machover said.

The lawyer is said to be urging Scotland Yard to launch a criminal investigation of Israeli embassy officials who helped Almog avoid arrest.

Brigadier General Zvi Gendelman, a defence attache, is reported to have boarded his El Al plane at Heathrow and told Almog not to leave.

Machover was further reported to be wanting the British Foreign Office to act against the Israeli diplomats responsible for perverting the course of justice and an inquiry into why police failed to board the plane.

It is understood that the Israeli military chief face arrest under the 1957 Geneva Conventions Act that permits the prosecution in Britain of alleged war criminals whatever their nationality and even if their actions were committed abroad.

In separate action, some Palestinian residents of occupied East al-Quds are also planning to seek redress through the British courts against city officials and politicians who ordered the demolition of homes.


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