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Israel military chief quits under fire over war performance

Story Highlights

• NEW: Israel Defense Ministry: IDF chief of staff has resigned
• NEW: Report: PM Ehud Olmert expresses regret over the resignation
• Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz appointed June 1, 2005
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israel Defense Forces' chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, has resigned, the Israeli Defense Ministry said early Wednesday.

Halutz, appointed in June 2005, had been under pressure to resign since the end of Israel's 34-day war against Hezbollah last summer.

The war failed in two of its stated objectives -- recovering two captured soldiers and crushing Hezbollah.

"The time has really come," said an unidentified general quoted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "Inquiries show only the tip of the iceberg regarding Halutz's functioning during the war."

Hezbollah, a powerful player in Lebanese politics and linked to Iran, is a militant group that promotes a fundamentalist Muslim state and refuses to recognize Israel.

Deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Hezbollah's tactics have ranged from car bombings to rocket attacks.

Israel launched a full-scale attack on Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in mid-July after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser, 31, and Eldad Regev, 26.

The soldiers are both reservists and graduate students in civilian life who were serving stints of only a few weeks in the IDF.

The conflict was declared over on August 14, 2006, after the United Nations passed a resolution calling for an international force in southern Lebanon.

Goldwasser and Regev are still missing, and Hezbollah is still active.

The death toll from the conflict has varied in reports between 1,000 and 1,400, and many of the victims were Lebanese civilians. Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced.

In August the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that of the 180,000 Lebanese who had sought shelter in Syria, more than 107,000 had returned to Lebanon.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret over Halutz's resignation, Haaretz reported.

Moshe Kaplinsky, the deputy chief of staff, will be the interim head of the armed forces, the paper said.

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Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz had been under pressure to resign since the end of Israel's 34-day war against Hezbollah.

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