The families of three teens murdered by a Hamas operative in 2014 sued the terror group on Sunday, filing a claim at the Jerusalem District Court for over half a billion shekels.
The families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach say they are bringing the legal case in an attempt to stop the Palestinian Authority from transferring cash to Hamas.
“If the prosecution has the power to deter, even slightly, these evil forces, it will be our reward,” the families said in a statement.
Fraenkel, 16, Shaar, 16, and Yifrach, 19, were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on the night of June 12, 2014, at a hitchhiking post in the West Bank south of Jerusalem.
Their bodies were discovered June 30, in Halhul, near Hebron, after an 18-day search, and it emerged that they had been murdered hours after the kidnapping.
Tensions were further ratcheted up following the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Kdheir by Jewish extremists in an apparent revenge attack. The events were a major catalyst of the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza that started on July 8.
According to the lawsuit, Hamas was directly responsible for the kidnappings and murders and should therefore pay NIS 520 million (approximately $154 million) in compensation.
The lawsuit stated that according to a study conducted for their team by Alon Eviatar, a former high-ranking official with COGAT — the Defense Ministry unit on charge of liaising with the Palestinians — the Palestinian Authority transfers between $50 million and $100 million per month to Hamas.
“[The money goes to] the offices of the Hamas government in Gaza, and to various bodies in Gaza that are under Hamas control, and in fact, all the money goes to one of the parts of the Hamas organization,” the lawsuit stated, according to Channel 13 news.
There is no official figure on the amount of money transferred by the PA to Hamas and it remains unclear how this has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The families of the murdered Israeli teens are represented by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Center, who told the Kan public broadcaster that the legal action was necessary because the Israeli government had failed to stop the funding of Hamas. She added that if necessary, the money would be reclaimed from tax transfers Israel makes to the PA.
“What the State of Israel fails to do — stop the terrorist financing money that the Palestinian Authority transfers to Hamas — the victims of terrorism will succeed in doing,” Darshan-Leitner said.
“This is a precedent-setting lawsuit. For the first time funds from the Palestinian Authority will be confiscated for a terrorist attack carried out by Hamas. If the Palestinian Authority refuses to honor the foreclosure order, and continues to fund Hamas despite the order, we will demand the amount of compensation from the tax money that the State of Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority,” Darshan-Leitner said.
In 2019, tax revenues transferred to the Palestinian Authority by Israel accounted for approximately 60 % of the Palestinian budget.
Aiming to put pressure on Israel in protest of the plan to annex parts of the West Bank, apparently shelved this month as part of the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates, the PA began refusing the tax revenues in late May, leaving it in a deep fiscal crisis. As of Friday, the PA was still rejecting the revenues Israel collects on its behalf.
Additionally, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and right-wing politicians in Israel have in the past accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of providing Hamas with the money with which it funds attacks against Israelis by allowing millions of dollars in Qatari funds to enter the Strip in installments, as part of an unofficial understandings between Israel and the Gaza-based terror group.
The recent uptick in violence along the border is thought to be linked to demands for increased cash transfers from Qatar to the Strip, where around 60 percent of the population is unemployed.