A Washington, DC, court has awarded $332 million in damages to an American-Jewish family whose 16-year-old son was killed in a 2006 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The court found Syria guilty of having supported the Palestinian terror group behind the attack and thus ordered Damascus to pay the damages.
“It’s a great feeling. Justice was done for the terror victims,” said activist attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who heads Shurat HaDin — Israel Law Center, Tuesday. The Israeli civil rights organization sues terror groups and their sponsors in courtrooms worldwide and helped the bereaved Wultz family in their legal struggle, which ended this week. The amount of $332 million awarded by the court on Monday — mistakenly reported as $323 million by some media outlets — was one of the largest sums the group has ever won in a lawsuit, she said, and marks the first time Syria has been held responsible for damages.
On April 17, 2006, Daniel Wultz, of Weston, Florida, sat down with his parents in Tel Aviv’s “Rosh Ha’ir” shawarma restaurant, near the city’s old central bus station, to enjoy one of his favorite dishes. In the middle of lunch, at around 1:30 p.m., Sami Salim Mohammed Hammed of Jenin detonated five kilos of explosives in a bag packed with nails and metal shards, killing Wultz and 10 others. More than 60 people were wounded in the attack, including Wultz’s Israeli-born father Yekutiel. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Wultz’s mother Sheryl and other family members filed a suit against the Syrian and Iranian governments and intelligence agencies. In the case, filed three years ago in the United States District Court for Washington, DC, the family and Shurat HaDin argued that the Syrians were liable “for their provision of material support and resources” to the Palestinian terrorist group, according to court documents.
While her group has won suits against Iran in the past, this week’s decision marks the first time a court held Syria liable for sponsoring terrorism, Darshan-Leitner said.
“It shows that you can impose law on an lawless regime like Syria. It proves that even non-democratic states can be brought into democratic frameworks in a democratic system,” she told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. Since the judgment was handed down against Syria, it will be enforced “against Syrian assets” — such as US-based real estate, bank accounts and companies in the US that belong to the government in Damascus — Darshan-Leitner said.
“When a state chooses to use terror as a policy tool — as Iran and Syria continue to do — that state forfeits its sovereign immunity and deserves unadorned condemnation,” District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled, according to the Associated Press.