Israel to back accused soldiers


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet approved a bill that would grant legal and moral support to Israeli officers and soldiers sued for war crimes in foreign courts.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak proposed the bill, which was by the defense and justice ministries and the state prosecutor.

"The State of Israel will fully back those who acted on its behalf," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the beginning of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting. "The soldiers and commanders who were sent on missions in Gaza must know that they are safe from various tribunals and that the State of Israel will assist them on this issue and defend them just as they bodily defended us during Operation Cast Lead."

Under the bill approved Sunday, the state will provide legal defense to any Israeli officer or soldier facing legal action in a foreign court for his role in the Gaza operation.

The bill states that Israel under international law exercised legitimate self-defense in its Gaza operation after eight years of rockets fired from the coastal strip targeted Israel’s southern communities.

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