Several Israeli soldiers may be charged with war crimes resulting from civilian deaths in the Gaza strip and for this a legal team will be in place to defend them, the nation’s Prime Minister said Monday.
The move came after concerns in Israel grew that soldiers could be subject to any possible international prosecution despite the army's claims that Hamas militants caused the civilian casualties by staging attacks from residential areas.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, according to the Associated Press, The state of Israel will fully back those who acted on its behalf. The soldiers and commanders who were sent on missions in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals.
Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Olmert said Israel's justice minister would lead a team of senior officials to coordinate the legal defense of anyone involved in the offensive.
That decision is not going to prevent all these organizations and countries to pursue their efforts through legal means, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said at talks with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. So there is no immunity even if the decision was taken by the Israeli government.
Israel launched its 22-day offensive to try to halt Hamas rocket fire on southern Israel. The assault killed 1,285 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights counted. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, were also killed.