Israel's new army chief led Gaza war

Israel named a new army chief yesterday, choosing a general who led troops in its Gaza war to face future challenges that could include a nuclear Iran and missile threats from Islamist militants.

Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister, announced that he had picked Major-General Yoav Galant as chief of staff, a decision that came several weeks earlier than expected after a scandal erupted over alleged lobbying for the position.

As head of Israel's Southern Command, Major-General Galant led forces in the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war on Islamist militants in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. A United Nations inquiry later accused both Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and Israel of war crimes, but levelled most of its criticism at Israel.

The choice of a successor to the current army chief, Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, due to step down in February, has been clouded by scandal. Allegations that Major-General Galant had hired a publicist to smear a rival candidate for the post has dominated Israeli headlines. Police said that the accusations were not true and a document at the heart of the affair was a fake.