Published on
Haaretz (Israel)

IDF Killed Wanted Palestinians Despite Court Guidelines, Documents Show

Uri Blau

An elderly Palestinian walks past a mural picturing the plight of Palestinian refugees, in the West Bank town of Jenin. Israeli forces have assassinated Palestinians in the West Bank in apparent defiance of High Court rules for these kinds of operations, the Haaretz daily reported on Wednesday. (AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces has assassinated wanted men in apparent
defiance of High Court of Justice guidelines for such operations,
according to operational briefings obtained by Haaretz.

documents reveal that the IDF approved assassinations in the West Bank
even when it could have been possible to arrest the targets instead,
and that top-ranking army officers authorized the killings in advance,
in writing, even if innocent bystanders would be killed as well.

the assassination of at least one member of a so-called "ticking
infrastructure" was postponed due to an impending visit by a senior
U.S. official.

Finally, Haaretz discovered that contrary to what
the state told the High Court, assassinations were subject to only
minimal restrictions prior to the court's ruling.

One case
analyzed in Haaretz's investigation, whose findings will be published
in full in Friday's magazine, is that of Ziad Malaisha, who was killed
on June 20, 2007 in Kafr Dan, near Jenin.

On March 28, 2007, a
meeting was called by then-GOC Central Command Yair Naveh to discuss
Operation Two Towers. "The mission" said Naveh, "is arrest," but "in
case identification is made of one of the leaders of Palestinian
Islamic Jihad Walid Obeidi, Ziad Malaisha, Adham Yunis the force has
permission to kill them, according to the situation assessment while
carrying out the mission."

On April 12, Naveh convened another
meeting on the subject. This time, he approved killing Malaisha and
"another two people at most."

That same day, two other
discussions took place on the subject. One was led by Brig. Gen. Sami
Turjeman, then head of the Operations Unit, who said that the operation
must kill no more than five people in total, including the car's
driver. The second was led by then-head of the Operations Directorate,
Tal Russo, who approved carrying out the assassination even if there
was one unidentified person in the car.

The next day, Chief of
Staff Gabi Ashkenazi convened a few top officers to approve the
mission. These included his deputy, the head of the Operations
Directorate, the military advocate general and representatives of
Central Command and the Shin Bet security service. Minutes of that
meeting show that Ashkenazi forbade the assassination if "more than one
unidentified passenger" was in the car. Moreover, he said, "in light of
the diplomatic meetings anticipated during the course of the week, the
date of implementation should be reconsidered."

Leading jurists
who were asked for comment said these documents show that the IDF is
violating the High Court's ruling of December 2006, which held that
assassinations are permissible only if the target cannot be arrested
instead, and that "harm to innocent civilians will be legal only if it
meets the demands of proportionality."

In a conversation with
Haaretz, Naveh confirmed that sometimes no real effort is made to
arrest a target. "If the guy doesn't put his hands up we don't ask
questions, we immediately establish contact," he said. "I don't want to
have people hurt for no reason. If I know that the guy is armed and is
a ticking bomb, then I want him to be hit immediately without fooling

The IDF Spokesman's Office said in response that
Malaisha, a senior Islamic Jihad operative who was planning terror
attacks, was an approved target for assassination, but that during the
operational planning, "all the ranks involved decided that if there was
an opportunity to arrest the subjects, that alternative is preferable."

because the planning also revealed that arrest might be impossible
without excess risk to the soldiers involved, "the option of striking
the wanted men with the intent to kill was also planned. This part of
the operation was planned as a 'targeted preemption' in every respect,
in accordance with the restrictions and the conditions laid down by the
Supreme Court. The planning was accompanied by legal advice, as in the
case of other 'targeted preemption' operations."

"The option of
arresting the targets was examined, and only when it became apparent
that this was impracticable was the decision made to strike them," the
statement continued.

Finally, it said, the timing of all
security operations depends on diplomatic as well as security
considerations, and sometimes these factors necessitate delay. However,
"this does not detract from the operation's urgency or necessity."

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