Dutch Court Holds Hearing on Gantz in War Deaths

YERUSHALAYIM -
benny gantz
Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White Party, arrives to vote Tuesday in Rosh Ha’ayin. (Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

A Dutch court heard preliminary arguments Tuesday in a case about Palestinian civilian casualties in a 2014 Israeli airstrike during a 50-day war with Hamas in Gaza, in which Israeli prime ministerial candidate Benny Gantz is one of two named defendants.

Dutch-Palestinian Ismail Ziada is seeking 600,000 euros ($660,000) in damages over the airstrike deaths, Reuters reported. This preliminary hearing is to determine whether or not to try the case.

Gantz, 60, was the chief of general staff of the Israel Defense Force at the time of the Gaza bombing as part of Operation Protective Edge, in which Ismail Ziada said six of his relatives were killed.

The second defendant is former Israeli air force chief Amir Eshel, 60.

At the hearing, Ziada urged the court to go ahead with a trial for war crimes. Ziada claimed to judges at The Hague’s District Court that he came before them because he would not get a fair hearing before an Israeli court. Only under such circumstances will the court agree to try the case.

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 July 20, 2014.

Ziada’s arguments were dismissed by lawyers representing Gantz and Eshel — who did not themselves attend the hearing.

“It is not up to the Dutch court to judge military actions of Israel, just as it is not up to an Israeli court to judge Dutch military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia,” Thom Dieben told the judges.

“There is no good reason why the plaintiff cannot and has not filed his claim before the Israeli courts,” another lawyer, Cathalijne van der Plas, added.

“It is a case that has no connection with the Netherlands and derives from a situation… thousands of kilometers away, and relates to sovereign military intervention by the state of Israel in the context of an authorized military operation.

“The only possible conclusion here is that your court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case,” she said.

Judges are expected to hand down a ruling within the next two months.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge at the time to stop rocket fire against its citizens and destroy tunnels used for smuggling weapons and terrorists from Gaza into Israel.