Thirty yeshiva students serving in the IDF have declared that they will not take part in the evacuation of two Jewish families from the Hebron wholesale market after consulting their rabbis.
Central Command chief Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni announced Monday afternoon that the two squad commanders and 10 additional soldiers who refused to take part in their evacuation had been removed from their posts and would stand disciplinary trial.
"This is a phenomenon that endangers the very base the IDF stands on. This is an army of the people and in a democratic nation soldiers must obey orders," he said.
The story was first reported by Army Radio. The soldiers, from the Kfir Brigade's Duchifat battalion, were slated to replace a Border Guard force on Tuesday and take part in the forced evacuation.
Following their protest, their commanders sat with them and explained the importance of the mission. The potential "refusniks" were also told that those who will not carry out the mission will be treated severely by the army.
"The commanders made the essence and the importance of the mission clear to the soldiers," a source at the IDF Spokesperson's Office said.
"The IDF will act firmly against any refusal to carry out orders among its soldiers. There is one commanding authority in the IDF, and the soldiers may not choose their missions, as difficult as they may be."
The source added that "the IDF will continue to fulfill the mission given to it by the political echelon, and any refusal to obey orders will be handled severely."
IDF officials clarified that the soldiers have so far not declared that they will not get on the buses to the Hebron market and are continuing their regular training.
Meanwhile, however, family members of some of the soldiers arrived at the Bekaot army base and threatened to block the buses. One of the signs they prepared read, "My son, don't expel."
'They don't evacuate Arab women from a mosque'
"We came here to say: If they want to evacuate Jews they should send the police or the Yasam unit, rather than IDF soldiers," said Tomer, one of the soldiers' brother.
"My brother and his friends were sent to replace Border Guard officers to evacuate Jews, and this is definitely helping evacuation. This is not a suitable mission for an army which is supposed to defend the State of Israel. The army should not be a partner to the expulsion of Jews from the city of our forefathers, and we are here to help our brothers from Hebron," he told Ynet.
The brother, who fought in Lebanon last summer, explained, "I did not refuse an order then because it was defending the State of Israel. Then they also knew how to recruit yeshiva students because they needed manpower, because the other guys were sitting in Azrieli (Tel Aviv shopping mall) – those sons of important people, who don’t even know how to hold weapons."
He added angrily, "I did not see an Arab father or an Arab woman evacuated from a mosque, but I did see a Jew expel a Jews from a synagogue."
His father claimed that the army had lied to his son and their friends when it did not tell them about the mission's objective.
"They were told to prepare a field package. It wasn't real. The army is lying shamelessly. Our children did not take a snipers' course in order to evacuate Jews from Hebron," he said.
Shmuel, the father of another soldier, said, "All the soldiers did a big Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying the name of God). It's time they learn not to use the army for such things. An army should be run according to what is permitted. A Jewish army should be run according to the ways of the people of Israel and not of a political gang."
The Jewish settlement in Hebron is preparing to try and stop the buses from entering. Meanwhile, a special fund headed by an American millionaire has spread the word among troops in Hebron that a soldier who will refuse an evacuation order will receive a financial award of hundreds of dollars. If a soldier is tried over refusing an order he could receive $600.
Among those involved in the initiative are extreme right-wing activists Baruch Marzel, Avigdor Eskin and Itamar Ben-Gvir.
The two Jewish families entered two stores owned by Palestinians in the Hebron wholesale market about eight months ago. Members of the Jewish settlement expressed their anger over the planned evacuation, which is expected to be carried out by thousands of soldiers and police officers.
"The talks have reached a dead end," said Noam Arnon, a member of the Jewish settlement. "How can we talk with the threat of expulsion in the air? When there is such a threat, one cannot advance anywhere."
According to Arnon," This property is Jewish property. There was an agreement with former Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig-Gen Yair Golan, which was accepted by the prime minister.
"There is a legal, acceptable proposal which can be implemented, and the plan is that the families who entered will leave, but that Jews will stay in the area in one way or another," he told Ynet.
Arnon is referring to an agreement reached about a year and a half ago, when nine families who entered stores in the Hebron market left during one night, preventing a confrontation.
"I hope no one is looking for this confrontation," Arnon said, declaring that the settlers planned "a determined and non-violent struggle."
He clarified that "the violent side is not us. The one who orders an evacuation is the violent side, and this confrontation is unnecessary. We will do all we can not to break the rules."
Roee Mandel contributed to the report