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Salah Shehade

Salah Mustafa Muhammad Shehade (or Shehadeh) (Arabic: صلاح مصطفى محمد شحادة‎), (born in Gaza on February 24, 1953 - d. July 22, 2002). He led the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades military wing of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, until his targeted assassination by Israel. [1][2]

A member of Hamas since the formation of the group in 1987, he quickly became one of its influent leaders and was arrested a few times by Israel or the Palestinian Authority. After Yahya Ayash's death, in 1996, Shahade became a top leader in the group, along with Mohammed Deif and Adnan al-Ghoul.

During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israel accused him of masterminding several attacks against both Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Gaza strip and in Israel proper. It was also reported that Shahade was involved in the production of Qassam rockets, fired against Israeli civilian targets, and other homemade weapons, as well as in the smuggling of military equipment in the Gaza strip. [1]

Contents

Assassination

On July 22, 2002, the Israeli Defense Forces targeted the building in which Shahade was hiding using a one ton bomb dropped by a F-16 plane in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City. Fifteen people were killed, including Shahade, his wife and 9 children. Fifty others required medical attention as a result of the attack. [3]

The attack received widespread condemnation from other Middle Eastern nations, Western Europe, and the United States. Ariel Sharon initially praised it as "one of our greatest successes," but later told Yediot Ahronot, "had I known the outcome, I would have postponed the assassination."[4]

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Legal responses

Human rights organizations around the world, including in Israel, severely criticized the attack, proclaiming that the intentional dropping of a one-ton bomb in the middle of the night on a dense civilian neighborhood is tantamount to a war crime. The Gush Shalom movement also threatened to turn the pilot over to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.[5] Israeli Air Force Chief Dan Halutz, who was abroad during the bombing itself but was still accountable as IAF commander, gave an interview to Haaretz, published on August 21, 2002. To his pilots he said:

[To pilots] Guys, ... you can sleep well at night. I also sleep well, by the way. You aren't the ones who choose the targets, and you were not the ones who chose the target in this particular case. You are not responsible for the contents of the target. Your execution was perfect. Superb. And I repeat again: There is no problem here that concerns you. You did exactly what you were instructed to do. You did not deviate from that by so much as a millimeter to the right or to the left. And anyone who has a problem with that is invited to see me.

When asked whether the operation is morally wrong because of the toll on some civilians, Halutz answered that the planning included moral consideration and that a mistake or an accident does not make it such.

When the reporter asked him about the feelings of a pilot and what he feels when he drops a bomb, Halutz answered:

No. That is not a legitimate question and it is not asked. But if you nevertheless want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb's release. A second later it's gone, and that's all. That is what I feel.

In the same interview Halutz denounced the left-wing groups who attacked the pilots and called to have them tried for "treason":

Is this the public for which the Israel Defense Forces is fighting day in and day out? All those bleeding hearts who have the gall to use Mafioso methods of blackmail against fighters - I don't recall that they ever threatened to turn over one of the arch-terrorists, the terrorists who have killed many Israeli civilians, to The Hague. What I have to say about those people is that this is a democracy, where everyone can always express his opinion. But not to be a traitor.
[Interviewer asking] Are you suggesting that members of the Gush Shalom ("Peace Bloc") group who made those comments should be placed on trial for treason?
[Halutz answers] We have to find the right clause in the law and place them on trial in Israel. Yes. You wanted to talk to me about morality, and I say that a state that does not protect itself is acting immorally. A state that does not back up its fighters will not survive. Happily, the State of Israel does back up its fighters. This vocal but negligible minority brings to mind dark times in the history of the Jewish people, when a minority among us went and informed on another part of the nation. That must not happen again. Who would have believed that pilots of the air force would find their cars spray-painted with savage graffiti because of a mission they carried out?[5]

In December 2005, a class-action lawsuit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, naming former Shin Bet director Avraham Dichter, the military chief in charge of the operation, as the sole defendant. Referring in particular to the Shehada assassination, the lawsuit alleges that Dichter "developed, implemented and escalated the practice of targeted killings." Citing the assassination of more than 300 Palestinian leaders and the deaths and wounding of hundreds of innocent bystanders, the suit claims that assassination is illegal under international law. [6] In 2007, the Israeli State Prosecutor's Office announced that an independent commission of inquiry into the death of the 14 innocent Palestinian civilians would be held following a petition by Yesh Gvul. [3] Headed by Zvi Inbar, this commission began in February 2008 and never officially released its findings, but news reports have said it found "no premeditated intention to kill civilians," and reported that commanders did not know there were innocent people in the building at the time and would have called it off had they known.[7]

In January 2009, a Spanish court began a war crimes probe into the attack that killed Shehade, with persons investigated including Mofaz, Dichter, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Defense Minister at the time), Moshe Yaalon, Doron Almog, Giora Eiland and Mike Herzog.[8] The probe was dropped in July.[9]

Israeli MK Moshe Ya'alon (Chief of Staff at the time of the bombing) cancelled a trip to the United Kingdom on October 5, 2009, because he feared an arrest on war crimes charges relating to the 2002 assassination.[10]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Jewish Virtual Library, Salah Shehade, 2007
  2. ^ CNN, Shehade was high on Israel most-wanted list, July 23, 2002
  3. ^ a b Yuval Yoaz, State commission to examine civilian deaths in 2002 Shahade assassination, Haaretz, September 19, 2007
  4. ^ Thomas, June "Did Israel commit a terrorist act?". Slate, July 26 2002.
  5. ^ a b The high and the mighty Ha'aretz, 21 August 2002.
  6. ^ Pravda, USA blames former Israeli security chief for bomb deaths in Gaza City, 09.12.2005
  7. ^ Spanish court to decide on Gaza trial
  8. ^ Israeli officials forming united front against Spanish lawsuit YNet
  9. ^ Spain drops 'war crimes' probe of 2002 IDF strike Ha'aretz. 2 July 2009.
  10. ^ Israel minister feared UK arrest BBC News

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