West Bank alert for armoured car - and Americans' dignity

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The Independent Online

You would think the Israeli military had enough to worry about in its quest to subdue young stone-throwing Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza with the unsubtle use of rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. But no.

You would think the Israeli military had enough to worry about in its quest to subdue young stone-throwing Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza with the unsubtle use of rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas. But no.

Now there's new cause to fret - the possibility that their youthful Arab enemies will lumber over the horizon and on to the battlefield inside a high-speed armoured car belonging to Israel's friend, ally and benefactor, the United States.

Much to the embarrassment of the US embassy in Israel, a new armour-plated Chevrolet Suburban worth $150,000 (£95,000) has been stolen from the driveway at the Tel Aviv home of one of its military attachés Colonel Rich Reynolds.

The Israeli security forces frown upon the import of armoured cars, even by the US (which pumps $3bn into Israel annually) because of the risk they will fall into the hands of guerrillas. This concern was sufficient to prompt the Americans to write to the Palestinian police for help in tracking the vehicle - which was, American taxpayers will be depressed to hear, uninsured.

The chief of the Palestinian civil police, Brigadier GeneralGhazi Jabali, ordered his men to conduct a search across Gaza and the West Bank. As this coincided with nearly a week of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which reached a climax on Monday with three Palestinian deaths and more than 300 injuries, it is hardly surprising that his men have yet to crack the case.

A spokesman for the US embassy confirmed the theft, adding that 35,000 to 40,000 vehicles were stolen in Israel every year and this was merely one of them. He said the car was "lightly armoured".

To be fair, having your armoured car stolen is not as careless as losing a laptop computer packed with official documents - a habit which appears to be catching among US diplomats.

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