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Israeli Committee Rules that Fatal 2002 Bombing of Gaza Neighbourhood “Not Criminal”

Tania Kepler

28gaza_war_crime.jpg

AIC, February 28, 2011

The 2002 Israeli bombing of the Al Daraj neighborhood in Gaza that killed 15 Palestinians and left more than 100 injured has been ruled not criminal by Israel’s Special Investigatory Commission.

According to the committee's report, submitted to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday (27/2), though intelligence mistakes were made, none of the Israeli military personnel involved should be punished.

The committee stated that the rules of Israeli and international law "unequivocally remove any suspicion that a criminal offense was committed by any of those involved in the operation." Not everyone, however, agrees.

The purpose of the attack was to kill suspected Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh, whom the Israelis considered a serious terrorist threat. The Israeli air force dropped a one ton bomb on the home of Shehadeh, killing 15 people, including Shahade, his wife and 9 children. 150 others were also injured.

The committee said that the strike against Shehadeh, "which was intended to terminate his deadly activity, was a legitimate targeted killing".

Responding to the deaths of 14 people and the countless other injured, the report stated: "Too much weight was placed on the immediate strike on Shehadeh, and too little weight was given to the possible risk to uninvolved civilians as a result of the strike."

In response to the committee’s conclusions, Knesset Member Avi Dichter, who served as the chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security service at the time of the attack, said that "it is important to state and admit: 'The assassination succeeded but the operation failed'."

The Special Investigatory Commission concluded that terrorist activity categorized him "a civilian taking a direct part in hostilities at that time" and that his classification by the Shin Bet as a target was professional, based on concrete information and in accordance with the principles of Israeli and international law, reported Israel’s YNet News.

"The said consequence was unintended, undesired and unforeseen. It did not stem from disregard or indifference to human lives," the committee determined.

The commission was established in 2008 by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmer following a High Court appeal members of the Israeli refusenik group Yesh Gvul, which insisted that criminal investigations be initiated against then Israel Air Force chief Dan Halutz, then Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, then Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to Israeli news daily Haaretz.

The Alternative Information Center (AIC) spoke with Yesh Gvul founding member Ram Rahat, who said that "The conclusions could have been predicted in advance. It is essentially a whitewash instead of the setting up of a criminal investigation."

He noted that Yesh Gvul refused to appear before the committee because of the nature of the investigation.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Rahat said, "Although this is the last real step in terms of the Israeli system, the issue is still open to international courts."

In addition to the internal Israeli investigation, in January 2009 a Spanish court initiated a war crimes probe into the attack that killed Shehade, which included an investigation of Dichter. Dichter has been charged by the Spanish state with possible war crimes for his part in the 2002 killings, which caused the deaths of 9 children when the one-ton Israeli bomb was dropped on their house.

Dichter cancelled his participation in the Madrid Coalition "peace conference" in November 2010 due to fears that he would be detained or arrested following this probe.

There are additional charges pending in Spanish court against Dichter for his possible role in the Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009 (Operation Cast Lead), at which time he was Israel’s minister of internal security. The Spanish investigation is currently on going.

In response to the Special Investigatory Commission’s findings, Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi, of the United Arab List party, said, "Those responsible for the assassination executed a war crime and should be prosecuted for killing innocent women and children. The planners and implementers new in advance the price the civilian population would pay."


:: Article nr. 75422 sent on 28-feb-2011 19:13 ECT

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