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Last update - 22:46 21/08/2006

Reservists rally in Jerusalem as protests over war snowball

By Haaretz Staff and Agencies

The campaign mounted by Israel Defense Forces reserve soldiers spread Monday as bereaved families joined them in demands for a national inquiry into the Lebanon war, and for the resignations of the prime minister and defense minister.

Some 20 reservists accompanied by civilians Monday marched from the entrance to Jerusalem to the Prime Minister's Office, where they called on the cabinet and IDF chief of staff to resign. In the evening the protesters settled in the Rose Garden.

A participant in the march told Army Radio the marchers intend to camp out in front of the Prime Minister's office and call for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz to "draw personal conclusions" and resign.

"I'm telling Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz to look me in the eye and tell me they are fit to hold their posts," Sgt. Maj. Lior Vilnes, one of the protesters, told Channel 2 television.

On Friday, a group of bereaved families and reservists, headed by the Muskal family will hold another protest march. At the end of the march they will present the prime minister with a letter demanding his resignation.

"The leadership failed and it must go. For that we don't need inquiries," said Riva Muskal, mother of Sgt. Rafan-El Muskal, who was killed a month ago in Lebanon.

Protests against the conduct of the war are growing, led by petitions circulated by IDF reservists just back from the fighting.

At Olmert's request, Mazuz will by Thursday present the government with several options on how to investigate the war in Lebanon.

On Monday, one of the petitions, already signed by hundreds of soldiers, received wide exposure in the press.

"The 'cold feet' of the decision-makers were evident everywhere," said the petition signed by members of the reserve Spearhead Brigade and sent to Peretz and Halutz.

"To us the indecisiveness expressed deep disrespect for our willingness to join the ranks and fight and made us feel as though we had been spat at, since it contradicts the principles and values of warfare upon which we were trained at the Israel Defense Forces.

"The heavy feeling that in the echelons above us there is nothing but under-preparation, insincerity, lack of foresight and inability to make rational decisions, leads to the question - were we called up for nothing?"

This article can also be read at <http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/753164.html>