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PACBI-BBC: IDF general dodged U.K. arrest due to police fear of clash

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Haaretz | February 20, 2008

BBC: IDF general dodged U.K. arrest due to police fear of clash

British police feared an armed confrontation if they tried to arrest an Israel Defense Forces general accused of war crimes, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

Retired Gen. Doron Almog avoided arrest in 2005 by staying on his plane at London's Heathrow airport after a tip-off that police there were waiting to detain him.

The El Al plane took Almog back to Israel, and the arrest warrant was eventually dropped for procedural reasons.

Police feared an armed confrontation with air marshals or Almog's security detail if they stormed the aircraft, the BBC said, citing documents prepared for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a police watchdog.

The commission, which concluded its investigation into the incident last year, declined to comment on the documents, saying only that there was nothing improper about the police's decision not to board the plane.

El Al referred all questions to the Shin Bet security service, which is responsible for security on its planes. The Shin Bet did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment. London police also declined comment.

The war crimes allegations stemmed from Almog's role as commander of the IDF in Gaza in 2002, when the IDF demolished 59 houses in Rafah refugee camp, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Israel said at the time that buildings it razed were empty and being used by militants as hideouts from which to fire on IDF troops. But the rights group alleges the destruction was a war crime as it was not justified by military necessity and was carried out unlawfully.

The group filed a complaint in Britain against Almog under a law that gives Britain the power to charge foreigners with war crimes, even if Britain or its citizens were not involved.

A warrant for Almog's arrest was issued Sept. 10, 2005 by the magistrates' court in central London, the human rights center said.

Senior foreign officials, including heads of state, are typically protected from arrest or prosecution. Almog, who was visiting Britain to raise money for an Israeli center for developmentally disabled children, did not benefit from the usual immunity.

In December, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter turned down an invitation to visit Britain out of concern that he could be arrested for his role in the 2002 assassination of a senior Hamas militant in Gaza, spokesman Mati Gill said.

Posted on 20-02-2008

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