- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

From combined dispatches
JERUSALEM Ten Bedouin Arab soldiers in the Israeli army, including a lieutenant colonel, have been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah, police sources said yesterday.
Israel radio said the espionage-related arrests were among the most serious in the country's 54-year history.
Also yesterday, eight Israeli reservist combat officers took to the Supreme Court their refusal to serve in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Police said all the 10 arrested soldiers were from a town in Israel's Galilee region, not far from the border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah and Israeli forces still clash occasionally more than two years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.
The men were arrested six weeks ago on suspicion of funneling information to Hezbollah about Israeli army positions and activities along the frontier, in exchange for money and drugs, the police sources told Reuters news agency.
Israel has about 170,000 Bedouin who, along with the Druze minority, perform military service, unlike the rest of the roughly 1 million Arabs in the country. The Bedouin volunteer for service rather than being conscripted like other Israeli soldiers.
The officer among the suspects is a lieutenant colonel and the rest are enlisted men, the police sources added.
There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shi'ite Muslim movement whose guerrilla attacks led Israel to abandon a south Lebanon "security zone" in 2000 after 22 years of military occupation.
Officials at Israel's Justice Ministry could not be reached for comment. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, which handles questions on internal security matters, refused comment, as did the country's army.
Since the Israeli army left south Lebanon, Hezbollah has clashed with Israeli troops in the disputed Shebaa Farms area near the meeting of borders between Lebanon, Israel and the Israel-occupied Golan Heights.
Israeli planes also fly regularly over Lebanon, drawing anti-aircraft fire from Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, in a two-hour hearing before the Supreme Court yesterday, eight Israeli reservists argued in favor of a petition that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is illegal and that the court should grant them conscientious-objector status.
The eight, seven of whom already have been sentenced to four weeks in jail for becoming "refuseniks," represent a movement of about 500 combat officers who refuse to fight in the West Bank and Gaza.
The resisters hail from a group called "Courage to Refuse." In January, it drafted a petition signed by 52 reservists, many of them senior officers, opposed to serving "in the task of oppression and occupation of the Palestinians."
Military service is compulsory in Israel, with men serving three years and women serving 21 months. Men under age 49 are also required to do up to a month of annual reserve duty.
Battling the country's hawkish mood, refusenik lawyer Avigdor Feldman told judges that the officers' plight was comparable with that of U.S. soldiers who refused to fight in the decade-long Vietnam war that cost thousands of lives, Agence France-Presse reported.
While they do not expect a verdict for at least a month, the refuseniks say the court will probably rule against them because they do not believe the judges will disown government policy.
According to refusenik support group Yesh Gvul ("There is a limit"), more than 1,000 people have refused to serve in the territories. They include reservists, conscripts and those who have left school.
Yesh Gvul says that in the first intifada, which erupted in 1987, about 1,500 to 2,000 people refused to serve and 170 more went to jail. This time, at least 150 have been jailed over two years.

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