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Israeli Army to Disband Religious-Only Units

Israeli Army officials have announced the phase-out of military units comprised solely of religious Jews.

Major-General Elazar Stern said Tuesday officials made the decision because they no longer want ideological units in the armed forces.

The plan will be implemented in March. In the future, students from orthodox seminaries will be deployed into mixed companies.

Major-General Stern acknowledged concern that some soldiers might refuse to participate in the evacuation of settlers under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan.

However, he dismissed speculation that the change is related to the planned removal of all 21 settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank later this year.

Embittered Jewish settlement leaders and others are calling on soldiers to disobey orders to evacuate settlers from land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.