Israel state prosecutor to meet officials at center of Spanish war crimes probe
Seven officials, including 2 ministers and 2 ex-IDF chiefs, under investigation for 2002 death of Hamas militant.
State Prosecutor Moshe Lador was to Monday summon the seven senior Israeli defense officials who were named as defendants in a war crimes trial that will be heard by a Spanish court.
Judge Fernando Andreu launched an investigation last week into seven current or former Israeli officials over a 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed a top Hamas militant, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 other people, including nine children.
The judge acted under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain, and other European countries, to reach far beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes. The universal jurisdiction ruling sparked outrage in Israel and elsewhere.
Lador will meet Monday with minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Avi Dichter; the two former army chiefs of staff, Dan Halutz and Moshe Ya'alon; the former GOC Southern Command Doron Almog; the former head of the National Security Council, Giora Eiland; and Mike Herzog, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's liaison to the army.
The International Criminal Court is exploring ways to charge Israel Defense Forces officers over alleged war crimes committed in Gaza, The Times reported on Monday.
The alleged crimes included the use of white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, the British daily said.
According to The Times, when Palestinian groups initially petitioned the ICC, its prosecutor said that it was unable to take the case because it had no jurisdiction over Israel, a nonsignatory to the court.
Now, however, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, reportedly told The Times that he is examining the case for Palestinian jurisdiction over the alleged crimes.
The Times reported that part of the Palestinian argument rests on Israel's insistence that it has no responsibility for Gaza under international law since it withdrew from the coastal territory in 2005.
"They are quoting jurisprudence," Moreno-Ocampo was quoted as saying. "It's very complicated. It's a different kind of analysis I am doing. It may take a long time but I will make a decision according to law."
But Moreno-Ocampo also reportedly said that his examination of the case did not necessarily reflect a belief that war crimes had been committed in Gaza. Determining jurisdiction was a first step, he was quoted as saying, and only after it had been decided could he launch an investigation.
The IDF is itself currently investigating whether a reserve paratroops brigade made improper use of phosphorus shells during the 22-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
The brigade fired about 20 such shells in a built-up area of northern Gaza.
Aside from this one case, the shells were used very sparingly and, in the army's view, in compliance with international law.
Last week, the Cabinet declared that it would grant aid and support to IDF officers in cases where they face suits for alleged war crimes in Gaza.
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