Beirut- The chief of Israel's armed forces has tendered his resignation after internal probes pointed to his responsibility for the setbacks of last year's Lebanon war, a military spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
She said Lieutenant-General c, 58, told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz that he was quitting "as the investigations have run their course."
"With the echoes of battle having faded, I have decided to act on my responsibility," the spokeswoman quoted Halutz as saying in his resignation letter.
The July-August assault on Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas drove them from Israel's northern border but failed to retrieve two captive soldiers, prompting many Israelis to call for a purge of the top brass in hope of restoring a military edge.
A retired Israeli general, Dan Shomron, recently handed in the findings of a probe he conducted into the war's execution.
Shomron's report, released in part last month, criticized Israeli military commanders for poor organization during the war but stopped short of calling for Halutz's resignation.
At the time, Halutz said he was staying on, though two generals who had served on the northern front stepped down.
A government-appointed commission of inquiry is separately looking into the conduct of Olmert and Peretz, its work doing little to mollify Israelis who had demanded a more independent investigation.
The so-called Winograd Committee's interim report is expected to be out within weeks, and Halutz's resignation could stoke public pressure on Olmert and Peretz to follow suit.
Halutz, a former air force chief, came under criticism for relying heavily on aerial barrages in the first part of the war, which caused extensive damage to Lebanon's infrastructure while Hezbollah launched around 4,000 rockets into Israel.
Some 1,200 mostly civilian Lebanese and 157 Israelis, most of them soldiers, died in the 34-day conflict, which erupted after Hezbollah seized the two troops in a deadly border raid.
Halutz was made chief of staff in June, 2005, just before Israel launched a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, where, along with the occupied West Bank, Palestinians have been fighting for statehood.
The appointment raised eyebrows as it meant early retirement for the chief of staff at the time, Lieutenant-General Moshe Yaalon, who had publicly warned that the Gaza plan would embolden Palestinian militants sworn to Israel's destruction.
Israeli analysts have speculated that then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a former army general, wanted to control ground forces while leaving Halutz to oversee air strategy planning.
Sharon was felled by a stroke a year ago and succeeded by Olmert, who, like Peretz, lacks a military pedigree.
A decorated former dogfighter, Halutz was rarely without his signature sunglasses and had a reputation for cockiness.
This caused a political flap when, as air force chief, he defended Israel's controversial aerial assassinations of Palestinian faction chiefs, saying that such bombing runs left him as unmoved as the "mild tap on the wings" that they caused.
Halutz found himself again in trouble soon after an August 14 truce ended the Lebanon war, when an Israeli newspaper revealed he had sold off his stock portfolio within hours of hostilities erupting. He denied wrongdoing.
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