ADALAH NEWS UPDATE -
Israeli Supreme Court to Hear Test Case on Wed. 6 May 2009 at 9 am on the Question of
Opening Criminal Investigations against Israeli Military Commanders and Political Leaders
Responsible for Killings and Extensive Home Demolitions in Gaza in 2004
On Wednesday, 6 May 2009, at 9 am, the Supreme Court of Israel will hear a petition filed by Adalah together with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Gaza) and Al-Haq (West Bank) in April 2007, demanding criminal investigations into the killing of civilians and extensive home demolitions during two Israeli military operations in Gaza: “Operation Rainbow” (18-24 May 2004) and “Operation Days of Penitence” (30 September-15 October 2004). The petition was filed by former senior Adalah Attorney Marwan Dalal.
Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch will head the three-justice panel to hear the case. This hearing is the first to be held on the petition, two years after its filing, despite numerous motions submitted by the petitioners requesting an immediate hearing on the case.
“Operation Rainbow” led to many civilian killings, including at least 17 children, and to the demolition of 167 homes, inhabited by 379 families comprised of 2,066 individuals in densely-populated areas of Rafah, in the south of Gaza. The main purpose declared by the Israeli military and government for the operation was to locate weapons-smuggling tunnels via the Philadelphi Route, which separates Rafah from Egyptian territory.
During “Operation Days of Penitence,” executed in areas of northern Gaza, primarily Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia and the Jabalia refugee camp, many civilians were killed, including at least 27 children. In addition, 91 homes were demolished, inhabited by 143 families comprised of 675 individuals, and serious damage was cased to an additional 101 homes, inhabited by 833 individuals. The declared purpose of “Operation Days of Penitence” was to stop the launching of Qassam rockets from northern Gaza into Israel.
The petition contains extensive documentation from the UN, local and international human rights organizations, and published statements of commanders and soldiers who took part in the operations which clearly show that the conduct of Israeli military and political leaders constitutes criminal offenses under Israeli domestic and international law. Among them are statements given by (Reserve) Brigadier General Shmuel Zakai, the direct military commander of both operations, to Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar, who documented them in his book Eyeless in Gaza. In the book, published in 2005, Eldar quotes Zakai discussing the purpose behind the launch of Operation Rainbow: “The purpose of the operation was not at all to find tunnels. Do you know how this idea came about? On Friday I gathered the units’ commanders for a briefing, and on the way I heard the IDF spokeswoman on the radio saying that the purpose is to locate tunnels. How come tunnels? Is this the way to conduct an operation to find tunnels?”
Adalah argued that the acts committed by Israeli military commanders and officers in both operations amount to criminal offenses under Israeli and international law, and that those responsible must be prosecuted and held accountable. In both operations, the Israeli military carried out willful killings and the extensive and wanton destruction of civilian property, which are classified as grave breaches under the article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are therefore considered war crimes. The petitioners emphasized that the military commanders and political leadership bear direct responsibility for ordering the operations and supervising the military’s conduct in executing them. More information…
The Petition (in Hebrew)