Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit, Chief Military Advocate General, reacted to Haaretz's report Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces have assassinated Palestinians in apparent defiance of High Court of Justice guidelines for such operations by saying the article - which will appear in full in Haaretz's weekend supplement - was "annoying and misleading."
Human rights activists are considering filing a motion accusing the army of contempt of court following the report.
Yoav Leff, spokesperson for the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, said he intends to contact the Attorney General and request that he looks into the report.
In a conversation with Brigadier General Yair Naveh, who was the GOC Central Command at the time, he told Haaretz: "Never mind the court's instruction, I don't know when the court issued them." He added he preferred arresting suspects.
Mendelblit added: "All of the IDF's actions, including targeted killings, are undertaken in accordance to the letter of the law in general, and according to the High Court of Justice's directives, in particular." One case analyzed in Haaretz's investigation is that of Ziad Malaisha, who was killed on June 20, 2007 in Kafr Dan, near Jenin. The plan of action to kill Malaisha was approved by Brigadier General Sammy Tourgeman, head of the staff's Operations unit; Major General Tal Russo, head of the IDF Operations Directorate; chief of the Central Command Yair Raveh, also a major-general, and by Chief-of-staff, Lieutenant General Gabbi Ashkenazi.
On March 28, 2007, a meeting was called by then-GOC Central Command Yair Naveh to discuss Operation Two Towers. "The mission" said Naveh, "is to arrest," but "in case identification is made of one of the leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Walid Obeidi, Ziad Malaisha, or Adham Yunis, the force has permission to kill them, according to the situation assessment while carrying out the mission."
On April 12, Naveh convened another meeting on the subject. This time, he approved killing Malaisha and "another two people, at most." At no point were the restrictions imposed on such actions by the High Court of Justice's ruling mentioned.
The briefing did say that in case there is a child traveling with the Islamic Jihad militants, the action should be aborted.
In Mendelblit's letter to Haaretz, he writes: "The discussion, which was held in the office of the head of the IDF Operations Directorate, was attended by a representative from the International Law Department of the Military Advocate General. The Operation Directorate's head explicitly stressed that the force needs to act in accordance with the High Court of Justice's ruling that wanted men should be arrested, if possible."
A protocol summary of the meeting obtained by Haaretz does contain a reference to arresting the suspect, but only under the titles "alternative action." The chief of the Operations Directorate, the summary says, "stressed that it is important to present the alternative to arrest." This, the summary says, was "in light of the High Court of Justice's ruling on the subject."
The summary also says that the "head of the Operations Directorate also underlined the need for proper documentation in light of the High court of Justice's instructions on the need for a review committee, and especially since this will be the first targeted killing since the ceasefire and after the court's ruling."
The action plan was brought before the chief-of-staff for his approval the next day, April 13. "The chief-of-staff was aware of the court's ruling, and this is why he authorized the plan presented to him by the chief of the Operations Directorate, including the use of force against suspects whose arrest is impractical," Mendelblit writes.
The summary of the meeting with the chief-of-staff, also obtained by Haaretz, bears no mention of the "arrest alternative."
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