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Israeli Military Stops Controversial Marking of Palestinian Prisoners

Israel's military has ordered soldiers to stop marking Palestinian detainees with identification numbers on their bodies. The issue has sparked complaints from survivors of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.

The Israeli military says it will no long put numbers on the hands of Palestinians it has been rounding up in a massive security crackdown against suspected terrorists.

There had been loud complaints from Palestinians and Israeli lawmakers about the practice, in which Israeli security forces used ink-marking pens to put numbers on the bodies of Palestinian detainees.

The move has especially angered some survivors of the Holocaust, whose arms still bear the numbers the Nazis tattooed onto them when they entered concentration camps during World War II.

Tommy Lapid serves in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. He says he is outraged by the affair. "As the last Holocaust survivor in the Knesset, it is totally unbearable for me to think that we are writing numbers on the hands of Palestinian prisoners because this is something that was done to us, you know, in Auschwitz," he said.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also has denounced the practice, accusing Israeli soldiers of treating Palestinians like the Nazis had treated the Jews.

The chief of military operations, Colonel Gal Hirsh, says it was what he calls a "micro-mistake" to mark the Palestinians. He calls those who compare it with the Holocaust cynical. "This makes me sick, this attempt to take this small mistake of using pencil by a decision of a few soldiers and try to make it an Israeli Jewish policy and to try to do it similar to the Holocaust," he said.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer has issued a statement saying he views the matter with "gravity." He has ordered an investigation into the affair, and he has told all security forces to stop the practice.