JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s army chief of staff
yesterday condemned a call from scores of rabbis who urged
observant soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate Jewish settlements
under next year’s planned Israeli pullout from the Gaza
Strip.

The statement by Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, broadcast on local
media, reflected army officials’ growing concern that a
significant number of soldiers would heed the rabbis’ call,
causing a crisis in the army.

“Insubordination is dangerous to us as an army, as a
society and as a nation. This is not legitimate and
inappropriate,” Yaalon said. “Don’t put us in
impossible situations.”

“I call upon all those involved, from across the political
spectrum, to show responsibility and not to undermine the
(military),” he said at a navy memorial ceremony.

Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement
plan,” Israel would withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four
West Bank settlements next year, removing 8,600 settlers from their
homes.

Yesterday evening, an Israeli soldier was slain in a drive-by
shooting at an isolated settlement between the Palestinian towns of
Tulkarem and Jenin, near the West Bank settlements slated for
evacuation, the military said.

The soldier was the 1,000th person to die on the Israeli side in
four years of violence, according to Associated Press records.
During the same period, 3,265 people were killed on the Palestinian
side.

The slain soldier was identified as Staff Sgt. Yair Turgeman,
22, from the settlement of Kiryat Arba next to the West Bank city
of Hebron. Army Radio said he was sitting in a tent when he was hit
by Palestinian gunfire.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a Group tied to Yasser
Arafat’s Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the
soldier’s death.

In a sign of internal unrest among the Palestinians, members of
the same group briefly took over two government buildings in the
West Bank town of Jenin yesterday, demanding more assistance for
the families of Palestinians killed in the fighting and new laws
that would give the families more rights. No injuries were
reported.

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