Major-General Yoav Galant, who on Sunday was named as Israel's next military chief, is a former special forces commander and one-time lumberjack who is linked to allegations of war crimes.

Major-General Galant (51) was confirmed by the government as the next Chief of Staff and will replace incumbent Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi in February.

As the Army's commander for southern Israel, he oversaw the devastating December 2008-January 2009 offensive in the Gaza Strip in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

A U.N. probe said both Israel and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the 22-day campaign, which Israel launched in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.

After Major-General Galant was nominated last month, pending formal Cabinet approval, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem called for thorough scrutiny of his role in the Gaza campaign, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”.

“Galant's suitability for the position must be considered in light of his responsibility for suspected violations of human rights during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, which he commanded,” B'Tselem said in a statement. The group said that investigations into the operation had focused on rank and file soldiers and that there was a need for an inquiry into the conduct of senior commanders. — AFP

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