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Israel appoints new defence chief of staff

Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz.

JERUSALEM (AFP): Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak Saturday appointed Major General Benny Gantz as Israel's next armed forces chief of staff.

Gantz's appointment follows months of infighting among the high command.

Barak said he had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's backing to promote Gantz to head Israel's military, to succeed General Gabi Ashkenazi on February 14.

The decision was taken for "the urgent need at this time to dispel the uncertainties surrounding the appointment of a chief of general staff," he said, referring to tensions in the Middle East, notably Egypt's uprising.

The choice of Gantz, 52, a former deputy chief of staff, has to be ratified by the government on Sunday and also an ethics committee.

Barak's first choice for the post, Major General Yoav Galant, was ruled out by the attorney general and the state comptroller last Tuesday after he was accused of illegally obtaining land around his house.

Galant commanded Operation Cast Lead, the 22-day Israel assault on Hamas-controlled Gaza in which 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, including 10 soldiers, were killed.

He has defended himself in Israeli news media as the victim of a plot initiated by his rivals.

Ashkenazi and Barak were "no longer able to work together," Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying.

He had planned to nominate General Yair Naveh as an interim chief of general staff, but the choice drew widespread criticism.


Defence  Israel  

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