Dutch court throws out slain family damages case against Israeli military chiefs
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Dutch court throws out slain family damages case against Israeli military chiefs

Judges find former IDF commander Benny Gantz, ex-air force chief Amir Eshel have immunity as they acted in state-sanctioned military operation; Palestinian had sought compensation

Dutch-Palestinian man Ismail Zeyada, originally from the Gaza Strip, right, and his lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, rise as judges enter The Hague District Court, Netherlands, January 29, 2020. (Peter Dejong/AP)
Dutch-Palestinian man Ismail Zeyada, originally from the Gaza Strip, right, and his lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, rise as judges enter The Hague District Court, Netherlands, January 29, 2020. (Peter Dejong/AP)

A Dutch court threw out a civil case Wednesday brought by a Dutch-Palestinian man seeking damages from two former Israeli military commanders for their roles in a 2014 airstrike on a Gaza house that killed six members of his family.

The Hague District Court ruled that the case filed by Ismail Zeyada cannot proceed because the commanders, including high-profile former military chief Benny Gantz, have immunity.

Zeyada was attempting to sue Gantz, who is now a prominent Israeli member of Knesset, and former Israeli Air Force commander Amir Eshel. Neither Gantz nor Eshel was in court for the decision.

Zeyada, who lives in the Netherlands, brought the case in The Hague because he argued he cannot successfully hold Israeli military leaders accountable in Israeli courts.

But presiding judge Larisa Alwin said the court cannot hear the case because the commanders “enjoy functional immunity from jurisdiction,” as their actions were part of a state-sanctioned military operation.

Amir Eshel (left) with Benny Gantz (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Amir Eshel (left) with Benny Gantz (Moshe Shai/ Flash90)

Zeyada said he and his lawyers would study the ruling with a view to appealing.

“I owe it to all the Palestinians who have suffered and continue to suffer the same fate, to continue this struggle to achieve what is denied to them: access to independent justice and accountability for the unspeakable crimes committed against them,” he told reporters outside the courtroom.

The court agreed with the arguments of Dutch lawyers representing Gantz and Eshel, who said last year that they should reject the case for lack of jurisdiction because the commanders have immunity, as their actions in the 2014 Gaza conflict were part of an Israeli military operation and that Zeyada was free to sue them in Israel.

At hearings last year, Zeyada rejected the idea that he has access to justice in Israel as “farcical, as well as vicious.”

Israel’s Justice Ministry had asked the court to dismiss the allegations, saying that an internal Israeli military investigation determined that the airstrike had killed four terrorists hiding in the house. It said the attack was permissible under international law, and argued that the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction.

Gaza’s terrorist Hamas rulers themselves have said that two of their members were in the building.

Dutch-Palestinian man Ismail Zeyada, originally from the Gaza Strip, pauses as he reads a statement to media at The Hague District Court, Netherlands, January 29, 2020. (Peter Dejong/AP)

At a hearing last year, Zeyada detailed his loss to the judges.

“My mother, Muftia Zeyada, who was 70 years old at the time of her death. My eldest brother Jamil and his precious wife Bayan. Their 12-year-old son Shaban. My two other brothers, Youssef and Omar,” he told judges.

Zeyada said Wednesday that he felt “deep sorrow and disappointment, because effectively this decision denies me access to justice. I have no access to justice. I’m a Dutch citizen… I’ve been a victim of a horrendous crime and here a Dutch court tells me, no access to justice.”

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