Helicopter pilot 'refused order to blast Palestinian house'
Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
Thursday April 18, 2002
An Israeli helicopter gunship pilot reportedly refused to fire a missile at a Palestinian house, the latest sign of growing unease among some Israeli troops over the conduct of the fighting in Palestinian cities of the West Bank.
The rightwing Israeli newspaper Hatzofeh said the Apache pilot refused a direct order for fear of hitting civilians. The disclosure follows widespread condemnation of the use of such gunships during the operation.
Palestinian doctors in Jenin blamed a significant number of civilian casualties on the gunships.
The claim also follows growing concern among some soldiers over the legality and effectiveness of certain actions, in particular firing on ambulances trying to recover casualties. Some soldiers have questioned such tactics.
The unnamed pilot's refusal reportedly took place on Tuesday last week when infantry, backed by tanks and helicopters, captured Dura, a village near Hebron, in the southern West Bank. Although the army has not yet commented on the claim, Guardian reporters in the village that day, did spot a helicopter.
Hatzofeh claimed the pilot's refusal came after a regimental commander's order to fire at a Palestinian house to "liquidate" five alleged terrorists apparently hiding inside.
The commander told the pilot that the terrorists could be exactly pinpointed in the house and again ordered him to shoot. Again he refused.
The helicopter then left the vicinity. When it returned, the commander told him that the terrorists had disappeared, but ordered him to fire at the house nevertheless. The pilot again refused, the newspaper claimed.
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