- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

JERUSALEM Israel's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that army reservists cannot refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but it sidestepped a decision on whether Israel's occupation of the territories violates international law.
Three Palestinians, meanwhile, were killed by troops in ongoing violence.
Eight reservists contended that Israel's 35-year occupation is illegal, and therefore, they have the right to refuse duty there. The court ruled that reservists cannot choose their assignments.
Since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting 27 months ago, more than 500 Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, saying they are not willing to help perpetuate military rule over another people.
Dozens of soldiers have been sent to military jails for periods ranging from a few days to a month or more.
Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war and withdrew from Palestinian population centers as part of interim peace deals in the mid-1990s. But it reoccupied most areas in June, as part of an offensive against Palestinian militants who have been attacking Israelis with bombs and guns.
The court said that accepting the reservists' demands could deepen the rifts in Israeli society. "The considerations of state security and the integrity of Israeli society must be considered against the arguments of conscience and belief," Justice Dorit Beinisch wrote.
In violence yesterday, a Palestinian gunman fired at soldiers after breaking through a fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip, the army said. Soldiers returned fire, killing the attacker, who wore an Israeli army uniform and carried two assault rifles, grenades and ammunition clips.
In a clash in the West Bank city of Nablus, soldiers killed a 20-year-old with a shot to the head. The man was lighting another protester's firebomb when he was killed, witnesses said. Army regulations permit soldiers to shoot those holding firebombs because explosive bottles are considered life-threatening.
Near the West Bank town of Jenin, soldiers killed an unarmed Palestinian motorist after his car rammed a jeep parked near a checkpoint. The jeep tipped over and a soldier was lightly injured, the army said. The Palestinian driver stopped immediately, emerged from his car and approached the jeep, the army said. Soldiers opened fire, assuming he was trying to attack them, the army said.
In the southern West Bank, soldiers razed the family homes of two gunmen from the Islamic Jihad group who attacked the Jewish settlement of Otniel on Friday, killing four Jewish seminary students before being fatally shot by troops.
Also yesterday, the Israeli human rights group B'tselem said in a report that on Dec. 3 soldiers beat five Palestinians in a Hebron barbershop, forcibly shaved the heads of two of the men and tried to make a third swallow shampoo. Troops also used the five as "human shields" in a clash with stone throwers, the group said.
The report is based on the testimony of the five Palestinians.
The Israeli military said it has not been able to track down the reported incident, even though the report provides the address of the barbershop.

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