Spain Goes With Gaza War Crimes Probe

A Spanish judge decided Monday, May 4, to press ahead with a probe into Israeli crimes against humanity by a senior officials in the Gaza Strip in 2002.

"No criminal investigation which could lead to the possibility of a conflict of jurisdictions has up until now arisen," National Court judge Fernando Andreu wrote in his ruling cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Andreu named in January then Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six military officials as suspects of committing crimes against humanity in Gaza in 2002.

On July 22, 2002, an Israeli F-16 dropped a one-ton bomb on the densely-populated al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza city to assassinate Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh.

Shehadeh, the leader of Hamas military wing, was killed in the strike along with 14 civilians, including nine children and three women.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) had filed a lawsuit against current and former Israeli officials on behalf of members of the families who lost relatives in the attack.

Last month, the Spanish judge was advised by public prosecutors to shelve the case on the grounds that the attack had been under investigation by Israel.

But the judge said that Israel had not investigated the killings.

"In Israel there has not been, nor is there now under way, any legal proceedings aimed at investigating the Gaza bombing," the judge wrote.


The Israeli government immediately slammed the judge’s decision.

"The investigation is clearly a cynical and baseless political maneuver that is completely unjustified," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.

"There is no evidence to support the claims. The Spanish legal system should shelve the process."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would ask the Spanish government to block the investigation.

"I intend to appeal to the Spanish foreign minister, the Spanish minister of defense and, if need be, the Spanish prime minister, who is a colleague of mine in the Socialist International, to override the decision," he said.

He claimed that there is no army as moral as the Israeli army.

"I have no doubt that the people who were involved in eliminating Shehadeh acted with a clear mind and towards a single goal – to protect the citizens of Israel."

Israeli soldiers killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, half of them women and children, and injured 5,450 in 22 days of air, land and sea attacks in Gaza in January.

The offensive wrecked havoc on Gaza’s infrastructure, leaving thousands of homes, government buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques in ruins.

Israeli soldiers have admitted killing innocent Palestinians in cold blood and ransacked their properties during the Gaza offensive.

UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk has accused Israel of committing war crimes of the greatest magnitude in Gaza.

( and Agencies)

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