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Israeli says he faced war crimes charges

JERUSALEM -- The former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip said yesterday he was warned not to leave an aircraft that landed in London after a tip-off that British police were waiting to arrest him on war crimes charges.

Reserve Major General Doron Almog said he arrived Sunday in London on an El Al flight for a three-day visit with Jewish communities to raise funds for a center in Israel for brain-damaged children.

''We were about to get off the plane, then one of the stewards came up to me and said the pilot asked that I disembark last," he told Israeli Army Radio.

''After some time, the chief steward said that the Israeli military attache was on his way and wanted to speak to me. I phoned him and he told me not to get off the plane," he said.

Almog said he was told a British Muslim group had filed an allegation of war crimes arising from his command of the military in Gaza from the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000 until July 2003.

The attorney who filed the charges, Daniel Machover, is an Israeli-born British man whose parents immigrated to Britain in 1967. In a telephone interview with Channel 2 TV, he said his firm is always gathering evidence and would not hesitate to file charges against other Israeli officers.

''Doron Almog is only one of these individuals," Machover said. ''This is not an issue about Israel or Palestine. This is an issue about justice and about the proper application of criminal law."

During Almog's term, Israel dropped a 1-ton bomb on the home of a Hamas leader, killing the man, an assistant, and 14 civilians, nine of them children.

Almog said he took the advice of the Israeli military attache; he and his wife stayed on the plane and flew back to Israel on its return.

Officials at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv refused to comment on Almog's assertion. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was taking the incident seriously and seeking clarifications from British authorities.

A spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police refused to comment. The Foreign Office also declined to comment, saying it had nothing to with the case.

But the Hickman and Rose law firm, representing the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, issued a statement on its website confirming an arrest warrant had been issued for Almog for acts allegedly committed as part of Israel's ''belligerent occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories."

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