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Friday, January 5, 2007

Halutz admits to failures in Lebanon war, rejects calls to resign

Last update - 01:52 03/01/2007   

Halutz admits to failures in Lebanon war, rejects calls to resign
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Israel failed to achieve all its objectives in its summer war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz admitted Tuesday, but he rejected calls to resign as a result.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in summary of the IDF's probe into the war, Halutz said "when I chose to take responsibility I chose to take responsibility. There are some people who interpret responsibility as escape. I decided to stand up to the inquiry," he said.
Halutz, who is under pressure to stop down because of the shortcomings of the war, said he decided to stay on and "correct what can be corrected."
"I see that a few of you would very much yearn to see me quit. I didn't plan to announce that to you today, and if you ask the question again, my answer will not change." He said resignation now would be "running away," adding, "I have not heard my superiors calling on me to resign. If they do, I will respond."
Summing up internal army inquiries into the war, which ended inconclusively in a cease-fire after 34 days of fighting, Halutz said IDF forces caused considerable damage to Hezbollah and killed "hundreds of terrorists."
But he added, "We were not successful in reducing the short-range rocket fire on Israel's north until the cease-fire." Hezbollah fired about 4,000 rockets at Israel during the fighting. Israel pounded Lebanon with airstrikes at Hezbollah targets and infrastructure, and ground forces swept through south Lebanon. "We attacked the Katyushas [rockets], but unsuccessfully," he said.
"There were cases in which officers did not carry out their assignments, and cases in which officers objected on moral grounds to their orders," Halutz said, an apparent reference to resistance against attacking south Lebanese towns and villages.
He said these instances of refusal "ran counter to the army's basic values." He said a senior officer was suspended as a result.
Halutz said it would be a mistake to declare a military goal of freeing the two IDF soldiers captured in a cross-border Hezbollah raid, which set off the fighting - though that was one of the goals stated at the outset of the conflict.
He noted conclusions of an inquiry by a former chief of staff that included vague definitions of goals and faulty work in command centers.
Halutz indicated that reserve soldiers would be called up for longer annual service to undergo better training, and said a plan to shorten the length of regular service, now set at three years, would be delayed.
A committee appointed by the government is in the midst of its investigation of the war and its outcome. The internal army inquiries did not call for resignations, but the government committee has the power to do so. Halutz said if that committee called for his resignation, "of course" he would comply.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz has made the same pledge.
The conflict ended August 14 with a United Nations Security Council resolution that posted a reinforced peacekeeping force in south Lebanon with a mandate to keep the area clear of armed forces.
The fighting left more than 1,000 people dead on both sides, according to the United Nations and Israeli and Lebanese officials. Lebanon's Higher Relief Council, a government group, says the majority of those were Lebanese civilians. UNICEF also says most of those killed were civilians, and that about a third of them were children.
Israel claimed 600 Hezbollah fighters were killed during the war but that figure was not substantiated, with the group only acknowledging 70 of its fighters killed.

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