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Israeli press review: Female recruits detained after refusing to serve

Meanwhile, the Israeli chief of staff freezes investigations into 7 October attack and Qatar accuses Netanyahu of putting his political career before mediation efforts
Soldiers in the mixed gender infantry unit of the Bardelas battalion relax after a training exercise along the Israel-Egypt border, on 18 January 2024 (AFP)

Female recruits detained after refusing to serve 

Dozens of Israeli female recruits who have refused to serve as observers in the aftermath of the 7 October attack have been detained and are facing harsh conditions, according to a report on Ynet on Wednesday.

The recruits reportedly refused to leave the recruitment centre and travel to the training base at the Border Protection School in Sayarim, Israel. 

The Israeli army declared that it needs to "convince them to serve and explain how important the position is”.

Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari responded to the refusals at a daily briefing, saying: “We have a moral duty to repair what happened that day at the Nahal Oz when we failed to protect it. An observer is one of the most significant roles in the defence of Israel.”

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Hagari was referring to the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October which resulted in the killing of 15 female observers and six being taken captive to Gaza.

The observers who survived the attack only did so by locking themselves in the base’s operation room. 

In November, female observers from the base told Haaretz that they had warned the army several times about unusual activity along the border fence, but it went largely ignored. 

The families of the observers have said that despite Israeli army claims that none of them were detained by the authorities, they were tried and are in prison, and have been treated disrespectfully. 

A female soldier who was detained after refusing to serve as an observer, on medical grounds, told her family that it was a “shame and disgrace”.

She said she had “sent the army all the documents that show I have been medically diagnosed since the age of eight and I am being treated with medication… currently they are not listening to me at all, won’t let me meet a military officer and are simply throwing me in jail”.

Halt to investigation into 7 October 

The Israeli chief of staff, Major General Herzi Halevi, has decided to freeze external committees which he had originally planned to establish in order to investigate the 7 October attack on Israel, until the Israeli army completed its internal investigations, according to Yediot Ahronoth and Ynet News.

The chief of staff reportedly contacted the state comptroller, Matanyahu Engelman, and warned him that his request to investigate the attack could harm the functioning of the army operating in Gaza.

'If [Netanyahu's] words are true, they are thwarting the brokering of the deal for reasons designed to serve his political career'

Qatari spokesman

He added that the investigation would divert the attention of the commanders from fighting and will not allow for lessons to be learned while the war is ongoing.

The former Minister of Defence Shaul Mofaz and retired generals Yoav Har Even, Aharon Zavi-Prakash and Sami Turgeman were meant to be involved in the investigations.

The decision to carry out an investigation into the attack caused a backlash, Yediot Ahronoth reported, particularly due to the appointment of Mofaz, due to his previous criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party.

Qatar: Netanyahu undermining mediation bid

Qatar’s foreign minister criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, claiming that he is undermining mediation efforts in order to serve his political career. 

Haaretz reported that a recording released by New12 of Netanyahu saying that Doha is more problematic than the UN and the Red Cross, and that he does not trust the Qataris, triggered the response from Doha.

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“We are shocked by the statements attributed to Netanyahu in the media. They are irresponsible and are destroying the efforts to save lives," Qatari spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said. 

“If his words are true, they are thwarting the brokering of the deal for reasons designed to serve his political career instead of prioritising the saving of innocent lives,” he added. 

According to Haaretz, citing a source close to the Qatari negotiating team, Doha said that “despite the problems caused by Netanyahu's statements, the Qataris will never jeopardise or harm the mediation efforts due to a dispute with a single person".

The source added that "the mediation is intended to save the lives of the abductees and Palestinian citizens and does not concern politicians". 

* Israeli press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye. 

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