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Ynet: Foreign Ministry – Ministers may be arrested in Spain

By Tova Tzimuki

To view original article, published by Ynet on the 30th June, click here

Several Israeli officials instructed not to visit European country due to international arrest warrant issued against them over their involvement in assassination of senior Hamas member Salah Shehade

The Foreign Ministry has instructed a number of Israeli officials not to visit Spain after an international arrest warrant was issued against them on suspicion of committing war crimes.

A Spanish human rights organization, believed to be representing a Palestinian group, filed a lawsuit last week against Israeli officials involved in the assassination of senior Hamas member Salah Shehade six years ago. Sixteen Palestinians were killed in the airstrike in the heart of Gaza.

Nearly all heads of the defense establishment at the time of the assassination are included in the list of defendants: Former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General (Res.) Moshe Yaalon, former Shin Bet Director Avi Dichter, former Israel Air Force Commander Dan Halutz, former head of the IDF Operation Branch Major-General (Res.) Giora Eiland, and former Southern Command Chief Doron Almog.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is also on the list, despite the fact that he has been in a coma since suffering a stroke two and a half years ago. During his tenure as prime minister, Sharon gave the army the green light to assassinate the leader of Hamas’ military wing.

Spain is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague and has adopted a law allowing war crime lawsuits to be filed within its borders. According to the ICC’s constitution, any of its members have the universal judicial authority to try suspected war criminals, even if the defendants or the acts they are suspected of have nothing to do with that particular country.

Since the war in Iraq, the United States has been pressuring European countries not to use this universal authority.

In the past, a petition was filed with the High Court of Justice against the appointment of Halutz as deputy IDF chief of staff on the backdrop of Shehade’s assassination. Halutz was abroad during the operation, but asked in an interview how he felt when he found out of the operation’s results, he said, “If you want to know how I feel when I release a bomb – I feel a small shake in the plane’s wing. It passes a second later.”

In response to the petition, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz informed the High Court that the defense establishment has formed a committee which would retroactively approve targeted assassinations.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be able to ask the Spanish authorities to cancel such a lawsuit, arguing that the affair has already been discussed by the State of Israel’s official legal institutions.

Itamar Eichner contributed to this report