Justice Minister Dismisses Threat of War-Crimes Charges

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel war crimes
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, earlier this month. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

In response to calls from Germany and Belgium for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces at the Gaza border, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Tuesday that such allegations were unfounded and that the IDF troops were doing their job according to international law.

Asked during an interview on Army Radio if there might not be lawsuits at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Shaked said “IDF soldiers are performing well, in accordance with open-fire orders,” and had done “nothing illegal.

Israel has said that soldiers do not fire unless fired upon or in the event of attempted breaches of the security fence and other direct threats.

“Security forces are doing a very good job and containing events,” she said. “Hamas is sacrificing its people for political purposes, but the IDF can handle the situation. I hope they got the message yesterday and things don’t get out of control.”

Shaked acknowledged that the international criticism is “unpleasant, but we have a lot of experience, and we can deal with it.”

She added that if Israel wanted “the Gaza border to be completely quiet, there’s no choice but to conquer the Strip,” but “I don’t think that should be done at this time.”

Germany said it supports calls for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests in Gaza, according to Reuters.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the violence “concerns us greatly and it’s terrible that so many people lost their lives, including minors.”

Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that the right to peaceful protest should exist in Gaza too, but blamed Hamas for instigating violence.

He said: “Hamas is trying to escalate the violence. That is cynical.”

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel termed called the Israeli actions “unacceptable violence,” alleging “a clear lack of proportionality and we are asking for an international investigation.”

Michel said the matter would be moved onto the calendar of the European Union summit in Sofia on Wednesday and Thursday.

Regarding the timing of the Gaza border riots with the opening of the U.S. embassy in Yerushalayim, he said, “We knew that there was a great risk, that this decision to move the embassy would bring less security, bring tragedies and, sadly, we were right.”

France was also condemnatory. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the situation in the Middle East as “explosive” and criticized the United States for unilateral acts.

“We are committed to the security of Israel but Israel’s security cannot justify this level of violence,” he told the French Parliament.