A committee charged with investigating the 2002 assassination of arch-terrorist Salah Shehadeh has found that mistakes were made in the strike, but ruled that the operation was not criminal. None of the IDF personnel involved should be punished, according to the committee's report, which was turned in to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
Several innocent Gaza residents were killed in the blast that took out Shehadeh, a senior member of Hamas who had coordinated terrorist attacks in Israel and was planning additional mass-casualty attacks.
Committee members said the death of innocents was the result of faulty intelligence. The death of civilians was “disproportionate” when weighed against the need to contain Shehadeh, they said.
However, “the lesson was learned” by IDF commanders, and there is no need to take action against the individuals involved, they ruled.
The committee, led by retired judge Tova Strasberg Cohen, also determined that the use of assassination as a tool against terrorist networks remains legitimate.
The IDF policy of pinpointed strikes against known terrorists succeeded in eliminating some of the most dangerous terrorist leaders and their followers, while attempting to avoid civilian casualties. The IDF often cancelled planned assassinations when civilians were in the vicinity, even though the terrorists are allowed to live with impunity among these same civilians.
Some of Israel's senior military and political leaders have been targeted by pro-Arab groups for legal action over the assassination. In 2009 a Spanish court agreed to conduct a probe of the incident at the request of a group of Gaza residents; however, Spain later moved to limit its jurisdiction, and the case was dropped.