J'lem welcomes Spain's closing of Gaza bombing case

Panel of 18 judges at the National Court decides Spain lacks jurisdiction in the matter.

shehadeh rubble iaf strike hamas 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
shehadeh rubble iaf strike hamas 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel expressed satisfaction that a Spanish court on Tuesday closed a judge's investigation of the 2002 IAF bombing in Gaza City that killed leading Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh, his deputy, and 13 civilians, saying they hoped this would send a message to those trying to use European courts to besmirch Israel. A panel of 18 judges at the National Court, decided by a wide majority to support prosecutors who said Spain lacked jurisdiction in the matter and who opposed the probe on the grounds that Israel already was investigating the attack, the court said in a statement. The judges announced only their decision, not the specific legal reasoning behind it. The court said their reasoning would be published in a matter of days. A Palestinian human rights group that brought the complaint before the court can appeal to Spain's Supreme Court in an effort to keep the case alive. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed the decision, saying the lawsuit was an attempt to use the Spanish legal system for political ends. "We view positively all developments that successfully deal with attempts like these and hope that this is the end of the story," he said. Among those who were named in the investigation were Industry and Trade Minister Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Strategic Affairs Minister MK Moshe Ya'alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then-OC Air Force; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister's bureau chief, Brig.-Gen. Mike Herzog, who was a senior Defense Ministry official in 2002; Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) at the time; and former OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. (res) Doron Almog. Israel was infuriated when Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu first agreed to launch the investigation in January, acting at the request of Palestinian relatives of victims of the attack. Andreu said he was acting under Spain's observance of the principle of universal jurisdiction, which holds that grave crimes such as genocide, terrorism or torture can be prosecuted in Spain, even if they are alleged to have been committed outside the country. Andreu said the bombing in densely populated Gaza City might constitute a crime against humanity. The July 2002 attack with a one-ton bomb dropped from an IAF F-16 targeted and killed Shehadeh, 49, the commander of Hamas's Izzadin Kassam military wing in Gaza, his wife, a daughter, and his right-hand man, Zaher Nasser, as well as nine children. Spanish prosecutors asked the judge to suspend the investigation, but in May he announced he would continue. Andreu said he had found no evidence that Israeli prosecutors were conducting a probe of their own, so he had jurisdiction to press ahead. Last week, the lower chamber of the Spanish parliament passed a bill to narrow the scope of Spain's universal jurisdiction law to cases in which the victims of a crime include Spaniards, or the alleged perpetrators are in Spain. The bill still has to go before the Senate, but passage is expected because both major parties support it. Kadima head and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who was in contact with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos when the case was opened in January, called and thanked him Tuesday for his support in dealing with the matter.