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Israel to probe reports of desecrated Palestinian bodies

Army chief denies 'horrible acts' were widespread

JERUSALEM -- The chief of staff of Israel's army yesterday promised a full investigation into reports that troops desecrated Palestinian bodies and then snapped their photographs with the corpses as war mementos.

Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon denied that the incidents detailed in a Yediot Ahronot newspaper report were widespread in the Israeli military and said such ''horrible acts" were forbidden in the army.

''I intend to reach the truth," Yaalon told Army Radio. ''God forbid if we are compared and likened to those against whom we are fighting."

While reports of soldiers abusing Palestinians have arisen previously during the four years of fighting, the new reports -- and photographs -- were the first to reveal soldiers mistreating the bodies of Palestinians and came as a shock to Israelis outraged over similar acts by Palestinian militants.

In one of the most gruesome acts detailed in the report, soldiers from an ultra-Orthodox unit reassembled the body parts of a Palestinian suicide bomber, sticking a cigarette in his mouth, according to the report. The account of the incident that took place in the West Bank two years ago included a photograph of the head of the corpse.

''Everyone was really excited," a soldier identified as ''Y," told the mass circulation daily. I tried to tell them, 'Are you crazy? You are disgusting.' They didn't understand what I was talking about."

The desecration of bodies, even of the enemy, is not allowed under Jewish law, since man is created in the image of God, prominent rabbis say.

The newspaper details soldiers' accounts of several other incidents, including one in the Gaza Strip last year, when soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who was walking in a forbidden area.

Although soldiers later realized the man was not carrying a weapon, they tied the body to the hood of a jeep and drove him to a base, where soldiers repeatedly took his picture, the report said.

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