Israel: Defence minister slams Spain war crimes probe

Jerusalem, 29 Jan. (AKI) - Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak has criticised Thursday's probe into seven former and current Israeli officials alleged to have committed war crimes after a 2002 attack in the Gaza Strip which killed a Hamas militant and 14 civilians, including nine children.

"Whoever calls the assassination of a terrorist a 'crime against humanity' is living in an upside-down world," said Barak in a statement released by the ministry of defence, quoted by Israeli daily Haaretz.

In the attack, Hamas militant Salah Shehadeh was killed by an air strike in a targeted assassination by Israeli forces.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the head of the conservative Likud party also condemned the decision by Spanish judge Fernando Andreu Merelles.

"It's absurd; Israel is fighting against war criminals and they are charging us with crimes?" said Netanyahu, speaking on Israel's Army Radio.

Netanyahu, who is also a frontrunner candidate in the upcoming Israeli general election, said Israel is merely protecting itself from terrorists.

"There is nothing more ridiculous and absurd than them accusing us, a democracy legitimately protecting itself against terrorists and war criminals, of these crimes; it is absurd and makes a mockery out of international law."

The Spanish lawsuit was brought by members of the families who lost relatives in the attack - the Mattar, al-Seadi, el-Houweit and al-Sahhwa families.

Merelles is expected to investigate former Israeli minister of defence and current minister of infrastructure Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, former Israel Defence Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz, Likud politician and former IDF chief of staff Moshe Yaalon, as well as Doron Almog, Giora Eiland and Michael Herzog.


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