PM Appoints Panel to Probe 2002 Killing of Hamas Chief Shehada

Committee to probe whether bombing, which killed 14 Gazans, mostly children, was justified.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday announced the appointment of an investigative committee into the July 2002 assassination of Salah Shehada, the overall commander of Iz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas.

In the incident, an IDF warplane dropped a one-ton bomb on Shehada's house in Gaza, killing more than a dozen people in the building, many of them children.

The committee, which was appointed by Olmert ten days ago, will be headed by attorney Zvi Inbar, formerly the Knesset's legal adviser.

Deputy State Prosecutor, attorney Shai Nitzan, notified the Supreme Court of Justice on Monday of the formation of the committee. "The state claimed and still claims that there was no need to appoint a criminal investigation into the affair," Nitzan wrote in his statement to the court.

However, beyond the letter of the law, the state did agree over five months ago to form an investigative committee into the circumstances leading up to the assassination.

The purpose of the committee, Nitzan wrote, was to "examine whether the strike was justified or whether an alternative could have been found."

The committee was requested to compile a report to examine whether "operational lessons" can be learned from the 2002 attack, as well as make recommendations to the Chief of Staff regarding officials who were involved in planning and carrying out the strike.

Avigdor Feldman, the attorney who petitioned the Supreme Court, said that the panel members who were picked were not objective. "This committee is no better than the internal investigation conducted by the IDF," Feldman said. "Now three people were appointed to the panel, all of them with military background, whose loyalties therefore lie with the defense establishment."

"The purpose of the committee was to hold an independent investigation of an incident in which many innocent civilians were killed," Feldman said, adding "clearly the State has something to hide."