Israeli soldiers accused of tampering with corpses

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The Independent Online

A military police investigation was ordered yesterday by the Israeli Chief of Staff into allegations that soldiers had tampered with the bodies of dead Palestinians and posed for photographs with the corpses.

A military police investigation was ordered yesterday by the Israeli Chief of Staff into allegations that soldiers had tampered with the bodies of dead Palestinians and posed for photographs with the corpses.

Lt-Gen Moshe Ya'alon ordered the investigation after the publication of several detailed claims of such abuse that the Israeli Defence Forces declared its "ethical strength" was no less important than its "military strength". According to one account in the newspaper Yedhiot Ahronot, soldiers from one unit had rearranged body parts of a suicide bomber who had blown himself up at a Jordan Valley checkpoint, positioning the bomber's head on a concrete barrier and putting a cigarette in his mouth before taking photographs.

The Labour Knesset member Ophir Pines-Paz submitted an urgent parliamentary motion claiming the actions "testify to a moral imperviousness and there must be action taken to prevent this from recurring".

The move came as the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Ali Abul Gheit, postponed a trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories 36 hours after three members of the Egyptian security forces were shot dead by Israeli tank fire at the country's border with Gaza.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the postponement but insisted it was for a period of days and was for logistical reasons unconnected with the shooting. Although the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement condemning the "irresponsible conduct" of the Israeli forces, Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, was said by officials to have accepted a personal apology made by Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister.

Israeli officials confirmed yesterday that a speech by Mr Sharon on Thursday demanding an end to "incitement" against Israel in Palestinian Authority-sponsored media and education curricula had been designed to apply an "easier" initial precondition for progress in the peace process than his earlier blanket demand for a successful clampdown on militant violence.

Mr Sharon told Likud activists that Israel "must not waive its demands on collecting weapons and dismantling terrorist organisations" but acknowledged: "It's clear that is a more complicated process." Instead, he suggested, the new Palestinian leadership could take action on issues which were in their control--eradication of "poisonous incitement and propaganda" in the media and in Palestinian education.

Mr Sharon has frequently complained about broadcasts and teaching that Israel claims glorifies martyrdom of those, including suicide bombers, who act violently against it.

But the Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said: "[The Israelis] should begin by abandoning their policy of setting conditions and stop their incitement [against the Palestinians]." The new PLO chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, said: "Maybe we have issues of this kind, but they [the Israelis] have them to a greater extent."

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