Spain Probes Israelis for War Crimes

A National Court of Spain judge on Thursday, January 29, named an Israeli minister and six high-ranking army commanders as suspects of committing crimes against humanity in the Gaza Stripe in 2002.

"As a consequence of the explosion caused by the bomb, 15 people died, mostly children and babies, 150 people were injured – some of them severely," Judge Fernando Andreu said in a ruling cited by the Aki new agency.

On July 22, 200I, an Israeli F-16 dropped a one-ton bomb on the densely-populated al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza city to assassinate Hamas leader Salah Shehade.

Shehade, 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.

The seven Israeli officials named suspects by Judge Andreu are Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, then defense minister and now the minister of infrastructure; Avi Dichter, then director of the General Security Service and now Internal Security Minister; Moshe Ya’alon, then chief of staff; Dan Halutz, then Air Force commander; Doron Almog, then a senior Air Force commander; Giora Eiland, then national security chief and Michael Herzog, with the Defense Ministry.

Haluzt told the pilots who carried out the attack that they carried out the mission "perfectly."

When he was asked about the innocent civilians killed in the strike, he said: "If you want to know how I feel when I release a bomb (off a fighter jet) – I feel nothing but a little thump on the side of the plane. It only lasts a second."

The Shehadeh assassination led international human rights groups at the time to call for criminal charges against Israeli officers, including Halutz.


Judge Andreu dismissed the Israeli strike as "clearly disproportionate and excessive."

He noted that the Israeli strike on the civilian population also left eight houses completely destroyed, nine houses partially destroyed 21 others with moderate damage.

"In effect, we are faced with an attack on the civilian population," wrote Judge Andreu.

An attack against civilians was illegitimate to start with, and could be regarded as an assassination, on which grounds the Spanish judiciary had jurisdiction over the case, basing it on the principle of universal justice, he stressed.

Referring to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, the court said the accused could face from 10 to 15 years in jail.

But Andreu threatened that if his probe determines the Israeli goal from the outset was to target innocent civilians in addition to Shehadeh, he might consider bringing "even more serious" charges.

The case is accepted under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of crimes against humanity or crimes such as terrorism or genocide, even if they have been committed in another country.

If the court rules in favor of the Palestinian complainants, the Israeli suspects can be arrested upon entering Spanish territory.

In 2005, reserve Major-General Doron Almog, the former head of Israeli forces in Gaza, was warned not to leave an El Al aircraft that landed in London after a tip-off that British police were about to arrest him on war crimes charges.

A British Muslim group had won an arrest warrant against him for breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention in the demolition of Gaza homes in 2002.

Israel is already preparing for a wave of lawsuits against crimes committed during its 22-day onslaught against Gaza, which killed more than 1,330 people, half of them women and children.

The massive air, sea and land bombardment has also left the Gaza infrastructure in ruins, leveling thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and mosques.
( and Agencies)

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