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Photo: Reuters
Wreckage of Shehade's home after the bombing
Photo: Reuters
'We hope this will get Spain to drop Shehade case'
Justice ministry steps up diplomatic, legal efforts to fight Spanish lawsuit against senior defense officials involved in targeted killing of Hamas leader in 2002

"We hope the briefs and documents we sent yesterday - and which they have already received in Spain – will result in them rescinding their decision to prosecute the seven Israelis in the killing of (Salah) Shehade," a senior Justice Ministry official familiar with the case told Ynet on Saturday evening.

 

Last Thursday it was confirmed that a Spanish judge had agreed to prepare a lawsuit against Israeli defense officials involved in the bombing of a Gaza building in July 2002. Senior Hamas military wing leader Salah Shehade was killed in the attack along with 14 civilians.

 

The Israelis named in the suit include, among others, Ministers Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Avi Dichter, and former IDF Chiefs of Staff Moshe Yaalon and Dan Halutz.

 

According to other top officials, the diplomatic efforts are currently setting the tone but Israel is certainly pushing forward with legal groundwork to protect the accused as well.

 

The sources said they believe the material Israel has already delivered to Spain contains the necessary evidence, and they expect the lawsuit to be dropped.

 

"The material was already due to be sent, so it didn't take long to finish putting it together and sending it shortly after Spain's announcement. We believe that if to begin with they had waited a bit longer to receive the material, the Spanish judge wouldn't have decided differently," said the senior officials.

 

'Preparing for any scenario'

The Spanish judge's decision focuses solely on the killing of Shehade, but according to the sources the Justice Ministry is preparing for a variety of scenarios in the event of private lawsuits pertaining to other incidents.

 

Last week an inter-ministerial taskforce headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann was formed to deal with the legal aspect of lawsuits filed in European countries regarding Israel's actions in the recent operation against Hamas in Gaza.

 

The Justice Ministry is collecting material and documents related to Operation Cast Lead to defend the operation and eliminate the possibility of prosecution against politicians and IDF personnel.

 

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