Israeli military officials have said that the assault on the Occupied Territories could be lengthy. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has said the offensive could last three to four weeks, while Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called up an additional 30,000 reserve soldiers. Many of these men will be sent to the Occupied Territories.
But not all of these soldiers are willing to go. As the Israeli assault has grown in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, so has the number of Israelis refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. In late January, a group of reserve officers signed a public petition denouncing the occupation and refusing to take part in it through military service. At the time, only 50 soldiers signed their names to the list. Today, the number hovers near 380. They join dozens of other Israelis who have refused to serve without formally signing the petition. Many of them have gone to prison.
Well, this afternoon, thousands of peace activists have gathered outside one of Israel’s military prisons to express their solidarity with the detained soldiers. They have come together in the middle of Passover, one of the most significant Jewish holidays. It is widely celebrated as a story of liberation.
- Peretz Kidron, Israeli peace activist with the group Yesh Gvul, an Israeli peace group that supports soldiers who refuse assignments of a “repressive or aggressive nature,” like supporting the Israeli army, speaking to us from Jerusalem.
- Idan Landau, Israeli reservist imprisoned last year for refusing to serve, and a lecturer in linguistics at Ben Gurion University, speaking to us from Tel Aviv.
- Father Jamal Khadler, a Palestinian priest at a seminary in Beit Jala, under siege by Israeli troops.