The Supreme Court of the Netherlands affirmed on Friday that Palestinians are precluded from bringing legal action against Israeli military officers for their involvement in an airstrike on the Gaza Strip dated back to 2014.
The highest Dutch court upheld the decisions of lower court judges, ruling that former chief of hte General Staff Benny Gantz and former Chief of the Air Staff Amir Eshel are shielded from prosecution in the Netherlands due to their immunity status. Gantz, a military veteran turned politician, and Eshel, a former senior Israeli official, are granted a unique immunity due to their roles in executing government policy. This places them above legal reproach, regardless of the alleged actions’ seriousness or nature.
Ismail Ziada initiated the case, claiming to have lost his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a nephew as a result of an airstrike that was part of Israel’s campaign during the 2014 Gaza War against the Hamas group. In his lawsuit, Ziada sought compensation from Gantz for undisclosed damages per Dutch rules of universal jurisdiction, which permit the pursuit of legal action for grave crimes committed in other countries. His legal team argued that the men should not be granted immunity as their actions were tantamount to war crimes. Since further appeals against the court’s ruling are not feasible, Ziada is contemplating a potential recourse to the European Court of Human Rights after this unfavorable outcome.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Justice conveyed to the Dutch court that an internal Israeli military investigation had established the death of four Palestinians due to the airstrike. Conversely, Hamas officials maintained that two of their members were present in the building.
Israel contends that it launched the military campaign in 2014 to halt rocket attacks on its citizens and to dismantle tunnels used for weapons smuggling and militant infiltration. The conflict, known as Operation “Protective Edge” in Israel, resulted in the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians and 74 Israelis, most of whom were soldiers.