Photo: IDF spokesperson
Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi
Photo: IDF spokesperson
Photo: Michael Kramer
Major-General (res.) Doron Almog
Photo: Michael Kramer

IDF officer cancels UK trip for fear of arrest

Judge Advocate-General Brigadier-General Avichai Mendelblit recommends Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi cancel studies leave for fear he will be arrested for alleged war crimes

IDF Gaza division commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi, has cancelled a leave to study in England, fearing he would be arrested and tried for alleged war crimes in the territories.


Judge Advocate-General Brigadier-General Avichai Mendelblit recommended Kochavi cancel the trip.


Kochavi served as commander of the Paratroops and played a key role during Operation Defense Shield in 2002. He drew praise for his outstanding service and was selected from a handful of colleagues to study security in the UK.


Security officials said on Sunday that Kochavi's visit cancellation was a sad, but unavoidable development.


"At this point, to send him to London, or any other officer who fought in the territories, is a danger," said a security source. "There's no reason to cause an IDF officer embarrassment and his trip is not an option at this time," he added.


With that, the IDF hinted that diplomatic channels must be used to change the situation in which every country can try officers.


"The problem won't solve itself," an army source said. "It will always be in the air, it always interfere with us. This time, when a trip by a senior officer like Kochavi has been cancelled, an officer who dedicated so many years in the battlefield, it especially hurts. Steps should be taken to fix the situation."


Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Kochavi has the full support of the State of Israel.


“Aviv Kochavi, IDF officers and members of the security establishment have the full support of the State of Israel. They worked and continue to work on behalf of the state of Israel and for its sake,” Mofaz said.


Mofaz sent a message to the British, but did not promise that he could change the situation.


"I hope that the time comes when countries themselves that suffer from terrorism, and which sends soldiers and officers to protect their citizens, that the possibility of a judicial procedure of some kind against good officers is blocked, soldiers and officers who acted legally against vicious and atrocious terror," he said.


'Judge advocate-general endangering IDF soldiers abroad'


In September, former IDF Southern Commander Major-General (res.) Doron Almog was forced to abandon plans to visit Britain at the last minute, after Muslim groups charged him with crimes against humanity for "his military role against the Palestinian people."


Israel's ambassador in London, Tzvi Hefetz, spoke with Almog during the flight, advised him not to get off the plane, and said if he entered Britain he would be served with the claim.


Immediately upon landing in London, Almog returned to Israel. Ambassador Hefetz also reported the incident to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.


Yesh Gvul spokesperson, Dr Yishai Menokhin, commented to recommendations made to a senior IDF general to not travel to the UK because he might be arrested for war crimes, saying the judge advocate-general is exposing IDF soldiers to judicial proceedings abroad.


“As long as the military judicial system is not investigating allegations of war crimes, it is exposing IDF soldiers and officers to judicial proceedings abroad,” Menokhin said.


Yesh Gvul filed a complaint against IDF officers, including former IAF chief Dan Halutz, involved in the execution of an IAF strike in Gaza on arch terrorist Salah Shehadeh.


A one-ton bomb was dropped on Shehadeh's apartment block in Gaza in July 2002, killing him and 14 bystanders.


After Almog’s incident, Mofaz tried to calm the situation, saying IDF officers are not in danger abroad. He note that Israel will take necessary action to ensure soldiers and officers are not in danger of arrest for war crime abroad, but the issue remains sensitive and many fear IDF officers who served in the territories are at risk of being arrested.


פרסום ראשון: 02.26.06, 21:07
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