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Israeli teens refuse to join army over settlement policies

Published time: March 09, 2014 16:53
Edited time: March 10, 2014 19:16
Reuters / Amir Cohen

Reuters / Amir Cohen

A group of Israeli teenagers has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu declaring their opposition to being drafted into the military because of Israel’s policies surrounding West Bank settlements, which they view as “human rights violations.”

The letter was signed by 50 teens and published on the Facebook page of an Israeli pacifist group called Yesh Gvul, which means ‘There is a Limit.'

The main reason for our refusal is our opposition to the occupation of the Palestinian territories by the army,” the teenagers wrote, as quoted by AFP.

The teenagers pointed out that the army plays a huge role in what Israel does in the West Bank, adding that it has a negative effect on both Palestinians and Israeli society.

“There are actions that are considered war crimes according to international law on a daily basis such as assassinations – extrajudicial killings, building of settlements on the Palestinian territories, administrative detentions, torturing, collective punishment and unequal distribution of resources such as water and electricity,” the teens wrote.

“The problem in the military system is not limited to the confines of its effect on the Palestinian society, but seeps into the daily lives of the Israeli society as well.”

Military service is compulsorily in Israel, with men required to serve three years and women two.

But in recent years, enlistment in the military has overall been declining. People who refuse to serve must serve prison time unless they receive an unfit profile assessment from the army that excuses them from having to enlist.

There has recently been an increase in conscientious objectors who have made public statements on moral grounds about their objection to joining the military.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are meant to be stationed in the West Bank to bring stability and security, but a recent report by Amnesty International, entitled 'Trigger Happy,' accused them of using excessive force and alleged that Israel allows its soldiers to act with virtual impunity.

According to UN data, 45 Palestinians were killed by the IDF between 2011 and 2013, including six children.

As well as the deaths, Amnesty said that a further 261 Palestinians, including 67 children, were seriously injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli soldiers. More than 8,000 Palestinians were injured by other means, including rubber coated metal bullets, the report said.

The current size of the Israeli Army, also known as the Israeli Ground Forces, is estimated at roughly 133,000 active soldiers with 380,000 soldiers in reserve. The Ground Forces should not be confused with the IDF, which includes the Israeli Air Force and Navy, in addition to the Army.

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