Israel urges Spain to halt 'cynical' Gaza war crimes probe
Spanish court to pursue investigation of 6 Israeli officials, including Ben-Eliezer and Halutz, over 2002 bombing.
Israel on Monday urged Spain to stop a Spanish judicial investigation into a 2002 bombing on the Gaza Strip, saying it "contravened the clear position of the Spanish government."
Spanish National Court judge Fernando Andreu announced Monday that he will pursue his investigation into a 2002 Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip, despite contrary advice by prosecutors at the court.
In response to the decision, Israel's Justice Ministry said it was "convinced the Spanish government and judicial system will do their utmost" against a "cynical" attempt by the Palestinian plaintiffs to "exploit the Spanish judicial system in order to advance a political agenda against Israel."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he would call on the Spanish government to prevent the investigation, reiterating Israel's stance that the Israel Defense Forces is the most "moral" army in the world.
"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," said Barak.
"No army is as moral as the Israel Defense Forces and I have no doubt that the people who were involved in eliminating [alleged Hamas member Salah] Shehadeh acted with a clear mind and towards a single goal - to protect the citizens of Israel."
Six senior IDF officers and security officials are the subject of investigation over their involvement in the 2002 bombing in densely populated Gaza City. That attack, using a one-ton bomb dropped from an Israeli F-16, targeted and killed alleged Shehadeh along with 14 other people.
Andreu said the 2002 bombing might constitute a crime against humanity. The suspects named by Andreu include former Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and five current or former army officers or security officials.
On Monday, the Spanish judge wrote that Israel's military conducted an internal investigation but Israeli military and civilian prosecutors declined to open proceedings of their own. He said for this reason Spain has jurisdiction to keep investigating.
"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 National Court has become known for its inquiries into alleged human rights abuses in other countries, ranging from Chile and Argentina to Tibet and Western Sahara.
Andreu's initial decision to investigate infuriated the Israeli government. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said in response that Spain planned to modify its law to narrow the scope of universal jurisdiction cases to those with a clear link to Spain.