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Spain court in 2002 Israel 'war crime' probe

  • Story Highlights
  • Spanish court to investigate alleged "crime against humanity" involving Israel
  • Allegation centers on 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed 15, wounded 150 others
  • Case brought by relatives of some victims names ex-Israeli defense minister
  • Spokesman for Israeli Embassy in Madrid said Israel declines to comment
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By Al Goodman
CNN Madrid Bureau Chief
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish court says it is investigating an alleged "crime against humanity" involving Israel for its 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed 15 people and wounded 150 others.

The case names former Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six other Israelis.

The case names former Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six other Israelis.

The case, brought by Palestinian relatives of some of the deceased, names former Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six other Israeli top military commanders and security officials at the time.

The National Court said it has jurisdiction to investigate the case, and that initial evidence suggests the bombing "should be considered a crime against humanity," according to a copy of the court order viewed by CNN on Thursday.

Edwin Yabo, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Madrid, said Israel would not comment until it receives formal notification of the case. He said he learned about the court's decision through a phone call from CNN.

The National Court previously has taken on other high-profile human rights cases outside of Spain, such as charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and more recently against former military leaders of El Salvador.

The court argues that if a potential human rights crime is not being investigated by the country in question, Spain can proceed, under international law.

The Israeli case involves the July 22, 2002 bombing in Gaza of the home of a suspected Hamas commander, Salah Shehadeh, the seven-page court order said.

The blast killed him, but also members of a Palestinian family, whose last name is Mattar. They lived next door. Some of their relatives brought the suit to the court last August.

The court said that, while it initially considered whether to accept the case or not, it asked Israel for information, but "as of today, Israeli authorities have not complied with the request for international judicial cooperation." So the court formally took on the case.

The next likely step would be for the Spanish investigating magistrate handling the case, Judge Fernando Andreu, to put the seven Israelis named in the suit under official investigation. That is equivalent to preliminary charges, which could lead later to an indictment, a National Court spokeswoman told CNN.

The Israelis named in the case, besides former defense minister Ben-Eliezer, are the following former officials: Dan Halutz, Israeli air force commander at the time; Doron Almog, a general in charge of Israel's southern command; Giora Eiland, president of the national security council; Michael Herzog, a senior defense ministry official, Moshe Ya'alon, head of the Israeli defense forces and Abraham Dichter, a senior security official.

The court said it will notify Israel to request that those named in the complaint be formally notified, so that they could called by the Spanish court to testify.

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