WASHINGTON - In the United States last week the Washington DC District Court threw out a civil lawsuit against former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. (res) Moshe Ya'alon demanding compensation on behalf of the families of those killed in the Lebanese village of Qana in 1996.
Ya'alon served as head of IDF Intelligence at the time. Justice Paul Freidman ruled that the bombing of Qana was an official government act and that Ya'alon, acting in his official capacity as an IDF officer, cannot be held personally accountable in a US court.
In April 1996 some 100 Lebanese citizens were killed from an errant shell in the village of Qana in southern Lebanon. The New-York based 'Center for Constitutional Rights' (CCR) filed the compensation suit on behalf of the families of those killed or wounded in the incident.
According to the organization's website the complaint alleges that "forces under Ya'alon's command were deliberately and wantonly attacking and killing internally displaced civilians who had taken refuge in a known and clearly-marked UN compound and failed to warn the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon compound of impending attacks."
Civil lawsuit against Minister Avi Dichter
The organization's catalyst for the lawsuit: War criminals cannot hide behind a country's immunity in these matters. Then-Israeli ambassador Danny Ayalon wrote a letter to US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns stating that Ya'alon had operated on behalf of the state of Israel.
Ya'alon was surprised by the lawsuit last year while serving as a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The same organization also filed a civil lawsuit against Minister Avi Dichter, who was a research fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. The suit charged Dicter as personally responsible for a targeted killing carried out by the IDF in July 2002 against Hamas leader Salah Shehada, in which 15 Palestinians were killed, including seven children. Dichter was head of the Shin-Bet at the time of the operation.
As opposed to the attempted arrests of IDF officers in Europe and New-Zealand – US law prohibits pressing criminal charges in relation to incidents occurring outside of the United States and which did not involve American citizens. Therefore the CCR filed civilian suits against Ya'alon and Dicter.