Rabin rejects 'war crimes' investigation

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The Independent Online

Associated Press

Jerusalem - Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin rejected calls yesterday to investigate long-suppressed allegations of Israeli war crimes against Egyptian prisoners of war, saying both sides were guilty of "aberrations".

"I am not saying there were no aberrations," Mr Rabin told the cabinet in his first substantive remarks on the alleged atrocities. "There were aberrations on both sides. There is no purpose in raising events of the past, not on our side and not on theirs. Raising the issue embarrasses the Arab side as well." Mr Rabin said in a statement last week that the Israeli Defence Forces were "a humane army whose soldiers are blessed with special moral values".

The Cabinet Secretary, Shmuel Hollander, said Mr Rabin stressed yesterday that "these events were real exceptions". "He emphasised that generally the soldiers are strictly committed to regulations and morals and the law of war," Mr Hollander said.

Israel is reeling from two weeks of revelations that its soldiers killed prisoners and civilians in at least three Mid-East wars. The disclosures have shaken the widely held conviction among Israelis that their citizen- soldiers were somehow morally superior to others.

"We must deal with this," the Communications Minister, Shulamit Aloni, said. "The government and then the education system ... must say their piece so it will not end up that on the outside we are moral, better than the non-Jews, but then we sweep things under the carpet."