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Dutch-Palestinian case against Israeli general over fatal Gaza strike rejected by Netherlands court

The case in a Dutch court against Benny Gantz has been dropped [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2020

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A Dutch court has said it can not hear a case against Benny Gantz lodged by a Dutch-Palestinian man whose six relatives were killed in Gaza's Operation Protective Edge.

A Dutch court said on Wednesday it was not able to hear a war crimes case about a deadly 2014 Israeli air strike in which politician Benny Gantz was a named defendant.

The case was lodged by a Dutch-Palestinian man, Ismail Ziada, six of whose relatives were killed in Operation Protective Edge, a major Israeli military operation targeting Gaza.

But the court said that under international law it could not hear the case, which named Gantz - the main political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - and former Israeli air force chief Amir Eshel.

"The district court has ruled that the Dutch court is not competent to hear the case, because the former Israeli officials have functional immunity from jurisdiction," Judge Larisa Alwin said at The Hague district court.

"This form of immunity, a legal concept in customary international law derived from state immunity, applies to acts carried out in the performance of a public duty," she said.

"The air strike in the Gaza Strip, in which six of the claimant's relatives were killed, is an example of an act carried out in the performance of a public duty."

Gantz was the chief of general staff of the Israeli defence force at the time of the Gaza bombing as part of Operation Protective Edge, which saw the deaths of more than 2,000 people in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Ziada's mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law, a young nephew and a friend were killed in the strike on Bureij refugee camp in Gaza on 20 July 2014.

Bureij was the site of the 2008 "Bureij Massacre", when 10 civilians, including three children and a Reuters cameraman, were killed by an Israeli airstrike.

Israel said it launched Protective Edge at the time to stop rocket fire against its citizens and destroy tunnels used for smuggling weapons and militants.

The Israeli military claims the home served as a Hamas "war room" and that four members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were among the dead.

Ziada's lawyer has countered that only one of those killed was a Hamas member, and was not active in the militant group at the time of the killing.

At a hearing in September Ziada told judges he was "seeking justice" and would not get a fair hearing before an Israeli court.

"The claimant believes that he cannot file his claim anywhere else and that the case has sufficient ties with the Netherlands, because he holds Dutch nationality and lives in the Netherlands," the court said.

Also in September, the high-level defendants filed a motion to have the case dismissed, arguing that Dutch courts do not have jurisdiction over this case.

Read more: Palestinians reject Trump's unacceptable pro-Israel 'conspiracy deal'

Gantz and Eshel's lawyers argued Tuesday that the two cannot face criminal responsibility for the deaths as they occurred while they were carrying out official government functions.

"The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is the most moral army in the world and I am proud to have served in it for almost 40 years and to have commanded it," Gantz told Reuters.

In total, Operation Protective Edge left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, most of them civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

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