/ 29 December 2003

Israeli soldiers face furry new threat

Israeli soldiers stationed in the tense West Bank city of Hebron have recently been battling an enemy they define as more scary than Palestinian militants: enormous rats.

The rats, lured by piles of garbage in Hebron’s streets, have become so daring they have even infiltrated military barracks and bitten at least two heavily armed combat soldiers — one in the ear and the other on the lip, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported.

The rodents have grown so large that soldiers are calling them the Hebrew equivalent of ”crats” due to their increasing similarity to the stray cats, Maariv reported.

The army declined to comment on the reported injuries to soldiers. It released a statement saying it is dealing with the problem with pesticides and traps. It is also trying to coordinate garbage collection with the Palestinian authority, the military said.

”In the past few weeks the rats have been more frightening then the terrorists,” one unidentified soldier quoted by Maariv said.

Hebron is divided into Palestinian and Israeli-controlled zones.

Israeli soldiers guard the Jewish enclaves, where about 450 settlers live, surrounded by 130 000 Palestinians. Friction between the two communities is frequent. — Sapa-AP