A jurisdiction hearing began Tuesday in a Dutch court over war crimes allegations against Benny Gantz, as the Blue and White leader was in the midst of challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the premiership.
Dutch-Palestinian man Ismail Zeyada, originally from the Gaza Strip, brought the case in The Hague District Court because, he argued, he could not successfully hold Israeli military leaders accountable in Israeli courts.
Zeyada is suing Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, and former Air Force chief Amir Eshel for their roles in a 2014 airstrike on his family’s home that killed six relatives. The dead included a 72-year-old woman and a 12-year-old child.
The airstrike on the Zeyada family home took place during Operation Protective Edge against terror groups in Gaza.
Israel’s Justice Ministry has asked the Dutch court to dismiss war crimes allegations against the former military leaders, with lawyers for the two arguing that the court does not have jurisdiction.
The ministry said that an internal Israeli military investigation determined the airstrike had killed four terrorists, including three family members, hiding in the house. It said the attack was permissible under international law. Terror group Hamas — which rules Gaza and openly seeks Israel’s destruction — has admitted that two of its members were in the building.
On the April campaign trail, Gantz touted his leadership during the 2014 war as a reason to vote for him. In a campaign ad, he boasted of killing “1,364 terrorists” in the fighting.
A UN report has claimed that over 1,400 Palestinian civilians were killed in the fighting and said war crimes may have been committed by both sides. Israel has claimed the actual civilian toll is half of that and blamed Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying the group hid fighters and launched attacks from residential neighborhoods.
Liesbeth Zegveld, the Dutch lawyer handling the case, said it was filed last year and is still in the procedural phase as the court decides whether it has jurisdiction.
The family “is arguing that they do not have access to an Israeli court, that is highly discriminatory against them, that there are so many obstacles that they never get a ruling,” she said. “So we are arguing that they should be given permission to plead their case before a Dutch court.”
Zegveld said there is no precedent for such a case, but she hopes the Dutch court will agree to take it.