An Israeli court on Monday ordered Hamas to pay millions in compensation to the families of three teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered by members of the Palestinian terror group in 2014.
The Jerusalem District Court ruling requires the Gaza-ruling Hamas and Hussam Qawasmeh, the convicted mastermind the abduction and killings, to pay NIS 38 million ($11.8 million) to the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach.
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 subsequent 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.
“The fact that the youths were murdered around the time of the kidnapping and the murderers concealed the youths’ tragic fate shows their cruelty was also aimed directly at the relatives, who remained uncertain during this period” of their children’s fates, Judge Ilan Sela wrote in the ruling.
The families had sought over half a billion shekels in compensation. Shurat HaDin, which filed the suit last year on their behalf, slammed the NIS 38 million awarded by the court as insufficient and vowed to appeal.
“This is not how to deter a terror organization that has a budget of a billion dollars and continues to murder Jews and fire toward Israeli citizens,” the legal group said in response, referring to rocket fire from Gaza at civilians in southern Israel.
When the lawsuit was filed, the families said the case was aimed at preventing the Palestinian Authority, which administers the West Bank, from transferring cash to Hamas.
The suit cited a study conducted for the families’ legal team by a former high-ranking official with COGAT — the Defense Ministry unit on charge of liaising with the Palestinians — asserting the Palestinian Authority transfers between $50 million and $100 million per month to Hamas. 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.
“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,” attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat Hadin said at the time.
In 2019, tax revenues transferred to the Palestinian Authority by Israel accounted for approximately 60 percent of the Palestinian budget.