The Anat Kamm/Uri Blau affair has raised an old ghost in the shape of the controversy over the IDF policy of targeted assassinations, which was the subject of an article by Blau in November 2008 based on the documents illegally obtained by Kamm.
The article, which was approved by the censor, so angered Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi that he ordered an investigation into how Blau had received the material.
On Monday, the Justice Ministry spokesman released a letter by former Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. It was written 15 months ago in response to a demand by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard to investigate allegations in the article that the IDF was continuing to carry out targeted assassinations in violation of conditions set down in a High Court of Justice ruling. Three cases were referred to, including the killing of key Islamic Jihad terrorist Ziad Malaisha.
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The article, entitled “Secret IDF Documents: The Chief of Staff and the Top Echelon of the IDF Authorized Killing Fugitives and Innocent People,” was based on documents summarizing meetings of operational plans to strike at the Palestinian fugitives. Haaretz
also displayed a photocopy of one of the summaries from a meeting held on March 28, 2007. The words “top secret” appeared at the top of the document.
This particular document referred to a military operation coined “Two Towers,” aimed at Islamic Jihad leaders in Jenin, including Malaisha. It contained the operational guidelines issued by then-OC Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh.
“This is an arrest operation,” the document said, attributing the quote to Naveh. “But in case [the soldiers] identify one of the senior leaders of the Islamic Jihad, Walid Obeid, Ziad Malaisha, Adham Yunis, they have permission to open fire in accordance with their appraisal of the situation during the operation.”
Blau charged that the description of the mission as an arrest operation was just a cover-up for the real intent, which was to assassinate Malaisha and the others.
He also wrote that he showed the document to experts in international and criminal law including Hebrew University Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and retired Hebrew University Prof. David Kretzmer, and both said the operation was in clear violation of the High Court ruling.
The Justice Ministry spokesman’s office said Monday that several reporters had asked whether Mazuz had ordered an investigation into the allegations raised in the article after it was published.
This is what Feldman and Sfard had demanded of Mazuz 15 months earlier. The two attorneys had represented The Public Committee against Torture in Israel in its petition to the High Court against targeted assassinations. It was in its ruling on that petition that the court set down the conditions which, if met, could justify using this tactic. In their letter to Mazuz, the attorneys charged that Blau’s article indicated that the state had violated the ruling in connection with several killings of terrorists including Malaisha.
Mazuz wrote back on January 7, 2009, and turned down the attorneys’ request for an investigation.
Regarding the killing of Malaisha, Mazuz wrote, “The IDF operation met all the conditions laid down in the Bagatz ruling regarding ‘targeted assassinations.’ The attack took place after the possibility of arresting the fugitives was ruled out as being impossible to achieve under the circumstances and after it was made clear to the soldiers that arrest was the first preference.
“The attack was aimed at senior and extremely dangerous terrorists, who
were involved in preparations to carry out dangerous terror attacks,
and regarding whom the security system had reliable and precise
information ... It was carried out in awareness of the duty to avoid
harming innocents and reduce the danger to them, and after implementing
the principle of proportionality.”
Mazuz added that “the legal
aspects of the operation were examined at each one of the planning
stages and there is no basis to the charge that the IDF ‘ignored’ the
High Court’s instructions regarding targeted assassination operations.
On the contrary, the operational officers in the general staff, who had
close legal consultation, were aware of the High Court instructions and
stressed and carried them out in all stages of the planning and the
approval of the operation.”