Ashkenazi: No orders have been issued on outpost evacuations

The IDF has not received any orders to being preparing for the evacuation of 23 illegal West Bank outposts, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said on Tuesday. Israel has promised the United States that it would remove all outposts established after March 2001, but to date it has only taken down three minor ones. Overall there are some 100 outposts in the West Bank. Tension has been high at these 23 outposts since Defense Minister Ehud Barak began verbally threatening to remove them after his return from the United States in May. Speaking at the IDF Induction Center at Tel Hashomer, Ashkenazi said that when the time came to destroy the outposts, where possible, the police would carry out the physical evacuation. The IDF will likely provide security for the perimeter. "The IDF will follow any order it receives from the political echelon," Ashkenazi said. "At the moment, we have yet to receive a directive to evacuate an outpost…if that happens I want to make clear that the IDF is subordinate to the political echelon and the government and we will do what they decide." During his tour of the base, Ashkenazi referred to the Palestinians as an "occupied population" when responding to a question whether the IDF used Palestinians as human shields when sweeping homes in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. "A battlefield is not an occupied population that is under your control," he said. "This [Cast Lead] was a war and therefore I think that we need to look at this way and not as being similar to our operations in the territories." Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.