Senior Israeli security officials expressed their outrage over the Spanish court's decision to grant a petition by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Thursday, asking that they be charged for alleged "crimes against humanity" for their involvement in the 2002 assassination of Hamas operative Salah Shehade.
Fourteen civilians were killed in the incident and about 100 more were injured.
National Infrastructure Minister and former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said they were certain the State would protect them from any legal action by Spain.
"This is part of the propaganda against the legitimacy of the State of Israel," Yaalon said.
"Israel must act in all ways legal and political to remove the disgrace. This also harms the interest of the countries that host these claims. These countries should stand by Israel against the terror organizations challenging world order."
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, former GOC Southern Command Doron Almog, former National Security Council Head Giora Eiland and Brigadier-General (Res.) Mike Herzog have also been named as persons on interest in the case.
Ben-Eliezer said, "I am certain Israel will work on the diplomatic and legal fronts against the charges that were brought up in by Spanish court. We were as cautious as possible on the day of the attack (Shehadeh assassination). The Spanish court's decision is hallucinatory, ridiculous and outrageous. They are using the world's courts to fight those who are fighting terror.
Court document listing accused Israeli security officials (Photo: Reuters)
"I do not regret the decision I made as defense minister to take (Shehadeh) out. He was one of the biggest murderers. A hundred Israelis were killed under his orders," the minister said. "At the time, suicide bombing attacks took place on buses, at coffee shops and on the street on an almost daily basis. If we hadn’t assassinated him, he would have continued with the attacks and killed more and more Israelis."
Ben-Eliezer added that the targeted killing of Shehadeh was postponed a number of times due to humanitarian concerns: "I delayed the attack two or three times because Shehadeh was surrounded by innocent people. When I gave the order, we were under the assumption that he was alone. I was not aware at the time of any innocent people who resided in the adjacent building. We were certain there were no innocent civilians in the area.
"The IDF has always operated with caution; this was the case back then and also during the (recent war) in Gaza. I hope that soon I will be able to travel to Spain without fear," he said. "The free world must fight terror, and its courts mustn't target those who fight terror."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her Spanish counterpart Miguel Moratinos that the decision to file the suit was political, adding that it does not affect only those against whom it was brought, but all of Israel.
She said it constituted the most serious incident that had occurred between the two countries, and asked him to take care of it as soon as possible.
The Foreign Ministry stated that the law allowed for a procedure that could cause the suit to be thrown out, and that Israel severely condemned the Spanish judge's agreement to hear the prosecution before the procedure had been filed.
A senior official at the Justice Ministry told Ynet the ministry was considering sending an official to Spain in order to appeal the lawsuit.
"There are a few days in which this can be done and Israel will not sit idly by during this time," he said.
Amnon Meranda and Aviad Glickman contributed to the report