Israel defence chief orders inquiry into Lebanon war

Israel defence chief orders inquiry into Lebanon war

JERUSALEM – Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into the army’s handling of the offensive in Lebanon amid public outcry that it failed to silence Hezbollah’s rockets.

Just days after the fighting was halted, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces the toughest battle of his career while army chief Dan Halutz is under pressure to resign for dumping his shares just hours before the conflict began. Now Peretz has told Halutz that an external inquiry panel has been set up to look into the handling of the month-long Israeli offensive in Lebanon against the Shiite militants of Hezbollah, a defence ministry official told AFP.The probe, to be led by Amnon Lipkin Shahak, a former chief of staff and later minister of tourism, will examine the army’s preparation and conduct of the war, which left 160 Israelis dead, including 41 civilians.Olmert launched the offensive after Hezbollah captured two soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid on July 12 vowing to retrieve the captives and cripple the guerrilla group.But on the day his cabinet agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire more than a month later, the soldiers remained missing and Hezbollah kept up its rocket attacks unabated, firing a record 250 salvos into northern Israel.After a war that saw more than 4000 Hezbollah rockets slam down onto the Jewish state, critics charged that Olmert rushed into the war without sufficient preparation or consideration of the consequences.Adding to the controversy over the less than decisive outcome of the war, army chief Halutz confirmed newspaper allegations that he sold shares hours before the start of the Israeli offensive.Calls for his resignation have come from parliament but also from the highest circles of the defence establishment.Peretz, a former trade union leader who heads the Labour party, is also under fire, but has defended the army chief’s “loyalty and dedication”.Halutz sold shares worth 26 000 dollars at noon on July 12, three hours after the Hezbollah raid.Criticism has also been levelled at Israeli military intelligence for failing to properly assess the threat posed by Hezbollah, which has exercised complete control over south Lebanon since Israel pulled out after a 22-year occupation in 2000.Amid growing public disquiet about the results of the offensive, Halutz last week effectively demoted the head of the northern command, Major-General Udi Adam, and put his deputy in charge of coordinating the military offensive.Nampa-AFPNow Peretz has told Halutz that an external inquiry panel has been set up to look into the handling of the month-long Israeli offensive in Lebanon against the Shiite militants of Hezbollah, a defence ministry official told AFP.The probe, to be led by Amnon Lipkin Shahak, a former chief of staff and later minister of tourism, will examine the army’s preparation and conduct of the war, which left 160 Israelis dead, including 41 civilians.Olmert launched the offensive after Hezbollah captured two soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid on July 12 vowing to retrieve the captives and cripple the guerrilla group.But on the day his cabinet agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire more than a month later, the soldiers remained missing and Hezbollah kept up its rocket attacks unabated, firing a record 250 salvos into northern Israel.After a war that saw more than 4000 Hezbollah rockets slam down onto the Jewish state, critics charged that Olmert rushed into the war without sufficient preparation or consideration of the consequences.Adding to the controversy over the less than decisive outcome of the war, army chief Halutz confirmed newspaper allegations that he sold shares hours before the start of the Israeli offensive.Calls for his resignation have come from parliament but also from the highest circles of the defence establishment.Peretz, a former trade union leader who heads the Labour party, is also under fire, but has defended the army chief’s “loyalty and dedication”.Halutz sold shares worth 26 000 dollars at noon on July 12, three hours after the Hezbollah raid.Criticism has also been levelled at Israeli military intelligence for failing to properly assess the threat posed by Hezbollah, which has exercised complete control over south Lebanon since Israel pulled out after a 22-year occupation in 2000.Amid growing public disquiet about the results of the offensive, Halutz last week effectively demoted the head of the northern command, Major-General Udi Adam, and put his deputy in charge of coordinating the military offensive.Nampa-AFP

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