god moves in mysterious ways

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    Former Israeli army chief Rafael Eitan drowns

    23.11.2004 - 11:30
    By Megan Goldin

    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Rafael Eitan, the former Israeli army chief officially reprimanded for not preventing the 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon by Israeli-allied militiamen, has drowned. He was 75.

    Eitan, who became an outspoken rightist politician who once said Arabs should be placed in a bottle like drugged cockroaches, was swept into stormy seas at the Ashdod port on Tuesday where he was working as an adviser to a construction company.

    Helicopters and rescue ships launched a search and he was found after two hours, but medics were unable to resuscitate him, emergency officials said.

    "He was a brave commander and a brave soldier," said centre-left politician Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a former chief of staff.

    A veteran of all of Israel's wars, Eitan commanded the Jewish state's armed forces during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

    But he served out his term in disgrace after an official commission of inquiry faulted him for failing to prevent the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israeli-allied Christian militiamen at Lebanon's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982.

    The same inquiry found Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, defence minister at the time, indirectly responsible and he was forced to resign.

    Eitan later entered politics where he formed two right-wing parties called Tehiya and Tzomet, which joined the coalition governments of former prime ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Benjamin Netanyahu in 1988 and 1996.

    Nicknamed "Raful", Eitan earned notoriety for outspoken comments about Arabs and opposed interim peace deals with the Palestinians in the mid-1990s.

    Eitan served as Agriculture Minister and Environment Minister in the Netanyahu government and was
    appointed to the post of deputy prime minister. His party failed to win support in a general election in 1999 and he left political life.

    At the age of 16, Eitan joined the Palmach, an elite fighting force, whose members became the founding fathers of the Israel Defence Forces.

    He fought in the campaign to break a siege on Jerusalem and was wounded in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war over the founding of the Jewish state.

    Eitan later commanded paratroopers on a mission to parachute behind Egyptian lines in the Sinai Peninsula during the 1956 Sinai campaign, which was backed by Britain and France.

    Eitan was wounded again in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war when Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip and he was appointed army chief in 1978.
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