A group of reserve pilots in the Israel Air Force is planning to publicly announce their refusal to participate in attempts to assassinate senior wanted men in the Palestinian Authority.
The group has been discussing the initiative for more than three months and members say that they have been badly torn. According to sources in the movement of soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories, the group is in the process of collecting the last signatures and is waiting for "the right moment" to issue its announcement.
The various refusal movements view the pilots' planned declaration as a big boost for their cause, due to the special status enjoyed by pilots in Israeli society, and hope that it will shake up Israelis in a way that "ordinary" refusals have not. Though one pilot joined the refusal movement at the start of the intifada, and though there were a few incidents during the Lebanon War of pilots refusing to bomb specific targets, a declaration by an organized group of pilots would be something new.
The pilots initially considered joining one of the existing refusal movements, such as Courage to Refuse - the group of soldiers and officers who signed a declaration of refusal to serve in the territories more than 18 months ago. However, they eventually decided to form an independent group.
Since Courage to Refuse was founded, with 50 members, more than 500 soldiers have signed its letter of refusal. However, the group has failed in its goal of provoking a public discourse over the continued occupation of the territories and Israel Defense Forces actions there. It is now hoping that the pilots' declaration will succeed where it has failed.
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