C'tee: No criminal action in Shehadeh targeted killing

Report on 2002 hit doesn't recommend punishment for those involved; says deaths of 13 citizens "disproportionate," result of "faulty intelligence."

Netanyahu Shahada Report 311 (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Netanyahu Shahada Report 311
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
The special investigatory commission charged with investigating the death of 13 civilians as a result of a targeted killing of senior Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in 2002, submitted its final report to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday. 
The report, , authored by Maj.-Gen (Res) Yitzhak Eitan, former Shin Bet agent Mr. Yitzhak Dar and retired Supreme Court Justice Tova Strasberg-Cohen, determined that in making the decision to drop a one ton bomb on Shehadeh’s house “too much weight was placed on the immediate strike on Shehadeh, and too little weight was given to the possible risk to uninvolved civilians as a result of the strike.” The commission however recommended that criminal or disciplinary actions not be taken against any of those involved in the operation and instead offered a series of systemic recommendations.
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According to the report, “The targeted killing against Shehadeh was imperative because of the increase and escalation in terrorist attacks since 2000, in a manner which led to a situation of actual war, classified as an "armed conflict".  These attacks were carried out mainly by the Hamas Movement, to which Shehadeh belonged as one of its senior leaders and head of its Operational Branch…. Therefore, targeted killing was selected as a measure that would guarantee Shehadeh's elimination, with the expectation that this would not cause disproportionate harm to uninvolved civilians.”
The Commission concluded that the difficult collateral consequences of the strike against Shehadeh, in which uninvolved civilians, mostly women and children, were killed and many others injured, “became clear in hindsight, as disproportionate in the circumstances of the incident in question.”
The report noted that all those involved in the operation showed awareness and sensitivity throughout the entire operation to the issue of risk to uninvolved civilians and the duty to avoid or minimize it to the extent possible, in line with the principle of proportionality, but that a gap arose between what was expected and what actually occurred.
“The decision-makers foresaw proportionate harm to uninvolved civilians. The gap between their expectation and the actual harm caused did not stem from disregard or indifference to human lives, but rather was the result of incorrect assessments and mistaken judgment due to an intelligence failure and varying interpretations of the meaning of the information,” read the report. “The intelligence failure was partly the result of objective constraints with regard to circumstances, time pressure and a concern that the operation would be thwarted, thereby posing a certain, immediate and substantial risk to the lives of Israeli citizens.
The report stated that since the incident, there was a significant decrease in the use of targeted killings in the war on terrorism, and technological means were developed to ensure the success of such operations, including with regard to their collateral consequences. It also stated that “No targeted killing operation carried out since the strike against Shehadeh has resulted in a similar outcome, in either scope or gravity.”
The main recommendations issued by the commission included that the security forces  “incorporate and internalize, on an ongoing basis, the principles and norms of Israeli and international law and the ethical and moral foundations on which they are predicated,” that the principle of proportionality must be carefully adhered to, especially concerning the type of weapons used in operations of this type and that the security forces must “expand and reinforce the system of intelligence-gathering in all that relates to the risk of harm to uninvolved civilians resulting from a targeted killing against a legitimate target.”
The commission also recommended that differences of opinion or substantial reservations among senior officials in the mechanisms involved, which can significantly affect the decision of the political echelon, shall be made known, with special emphasis on the risk of harm to uninvolved civilians.
The report concluded by stating that “Despite the outcome which resulted in this instance, the means of targeted killing was and continues to be a lawful tool in the war against deadly terrorism, provided that the operation is carried out in accordance with the principles and rules set out by Israeli and international law and the ethical and moral norms on which they are based.”
Yesh Gvul leader Yoav Hass, one of the people who submitted the first High Court petition that eventually led to the commission’s establishment, said that the report whitewashed the incident and that the group would go back to court over it.
“Thirteen innocent people were killed and 150 more were injured because the decision makers decided that dropping a one ton bomb in a densely populated areas was the best way to kill a man. Now, nearly a decade later we learn that no one will take responsibility for their deaths,” said Hass. “We will go back to the High Court and argue that the commission did not do its job properly.”
Hass said that the commission was a toothless body with no subpoenaing authorities and was made up of people who were not apt to be critical of the IDF.