Israeli army charges border lookouts with shirking duties

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 27, 2011 4:39 PM
Israeli army charges border lookouts with shirking duties

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel court-martialed three intelligence soldiers on Wednesday for shirking surveillance duties on the volatile northern front with Lebanon and Syria, saying they had endangered national security.

The case highlights challenges faced by the conscript military as it beefs up defenses ahead of anticipated border protests in September, when Palestinians plan to sidestep stalled peace talks with Israel by lobbying for U.N. statehood.

Israeli media said the three soldiers, all female draftees, had gone to sleep during overnights shifts and in some cases had vandalized their surveillance equipment to render it inoperable.

According to one report, they were responsible for monitoring the stretch of Mediterranean sea between Lebanon and Israel, which in the past has seen attempts by guerrillas to sail in to carry out attacks or smuggle weaponry.

A lawyer for the defendants, Kobi Markolov, said their case should be considered a wake-up call given what he deemed the "sub-standard" service conditions of field intelligence units.

"The eyes of the nation are sad, bleary and dulled," Markolov told Channel One television.

In a statement, a military spokesman said the soldiers were charges with "dereliction of duty to the extent of endangering national security."

"Some of the accused have also been charged with damaging military equipment," said the spokesman, who declined to elaborate on the circumstances of their alleged offenses.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)