Background: Court to renew hearing on assassinations

The High Court of Justice is due to renew its hearings on a petition demanding an end to the IDF's policy of targeted assassinations after the state said it had no objection. At the same time, the court is also due to hear a petition demanding that the state launch a criminal investigation against Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, who was the commander of the air force on July 22, 2002, when a plane dropped a one-ton bomb on an apartment building in the Gaza Strip, killing Hamas military leader Saleh Shehadeh, his assistant, his wife, his 14-year-old daughter and 11 others, most of them children. The petition against targeted killings was submitted in January 2002 by the Public Committee against Torture in Israel and Law, the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment. The second petition, against Halutz, was filed by Yoav Hass, head of the Yesh Gvul organization, and several authors and intellectuals on September 30, 2003. Regarding the first petition, the court, on July 8, 2003, refused to grant the petitioners' request for an interim injunction which would have prevented the army from carrying out targeted assassinations until a final ruling was handed down. The court did not meet again to consider the petition until February 16, 2005. By then, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, during a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm e-Sheikh, had announced that Israel was halting all targeted assassinations except in "exceptional circumstances in which there was an immediate danger" and Israel could not coordinate with the PA. As a result, the state, the petitioners and the court agreed to freeze the hearings as long as the suspension of targeted assassinations was in force. A few months later, the court informed Yesh Gvul that for the same reasons, it was suspending the hearings on its petition against Halutz. On August 2, after several incidents in which the army killed a number of Palestinians, the petitioners, represented by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, asked the court to renew the hearings. Two days later, the state denied it had resumed its policy of targeted killings. Soon afterward, however, the army officially announced that it was resuming the policy. Once again, the petitioners demanded that the hearings resume. After a six-week delay, the state, on Monday, informed the court it had no objection.