Twenty-six American citizens who were present at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport when it was targeted by Hamas missile fire during last summer’s war will file a lawsuit against the terror group in a US court, it was announced Tuesday.
The litigation, which was inspired and organized by Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin, seeks to have various top Hamas commanders tried on war crimes charges.
Under US law, targeting or committing acts of violence against American citizens in an international airport can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
War crimes suits will be filed against Hamas leaders and rocket fire cells, specifically, Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, senior spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, and officials Hamdan Awad, Hudeiffe Samir, Abdullah Al’halut, Ahmed Jandoor, Ra’ad Sa’ad, Marwan Abed-el, Karim Issa and Salah Amer Daloul.
Over the course of last summer’s 50-day conflict between Hamas and Israel, terror groups from the enclave targeted Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport, located 12 kilometers southeast of Tel Aviv, and briefly grounded flights. Hamas took responsibility for the attacks on social media and in official statements.
Although there were no direct hits on the terminal, missiles fell in the nearby city of Yehud, destroying a residential building.
The airport is located 60 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip.
The US Federal Aviation Authority suspended all flights by US airlines to and from the airport on July 23 following the rocket fire. Europe’s aviation authority issued a similar order, and many airlines released their own notices on suspending flights.
The ban was overturned 24 hours later.
Shurat HaDin’s chairwoman and founder, attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, noted that the Hamas links to the rocket fire on the airport are indisputable.
“It cannot be denied that Hamas and other Palestinian organizations deliberately targeted Ben-Gurion International Airport in order to kill passengers and harm international firms operating there,” Darshan-Leitner said.
Shurat HaDin has filed lawsuits against a number of high-ranking Palestinian officials in the past, most notably at the International Criminal Court.
A landmark ruling February in a New York court fined the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority $218.5 million in damages for a spate of terror attacks on American citizens in Israel during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.
Thousands of rockets were fired at Israel during last summer’s conflict between the Jewish state and terrorist groups in Gaza.
Over the course of the 50-day conflict, approximately 2,200 Palestinians were killed — Israel contends that half were combatants, while the Palestinians say that most were civilians — and 72 people were killed on the Israeli side, including 64 soldiers. Israel blames Hamas for all civilian casualties on both sides, since the terror group emplaced its war machine in residential areas.