Dutch court to rule on Palestinian's case against Israel's Benny Gantz

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules.

 Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on October 19, 2021. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz attend a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on October 19, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza in 2014.

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.

Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offenses such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.

But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White political party (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White political party (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.

About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to UN figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli airstrike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm's way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza.

Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defense forces and Palestinian armed groups.