In a potentially dramatic ruling, the Jerusalem District Court ruled Monday that both the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization bear responsibility for 17 terror attacks carried out during the Second Intifada early last decade.
The ruling opens the Palestinians’ coffers to claims for damages from terror victims and their families that could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
The ruling “proves that the intifada was not a popular uprising but a planned and deliberate war against the civilian population of Israel,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an attorney who represented the families, said after the ruling.
The Second Intifada, or “uprising,” was a four-year wave of Palestinian violence in 2000-2004 that included over 130 suicide bombings targeting Israeli city centers and civilian life.
Judge Moshe Drori ruled that the PA and PLO were not state bodies that could claim immunity from damages claims. He also cited the PLO’s longtime policy of paying stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks, and said both the PA and PLO had played a role in inciting the Palestinian public into attacking Israelis.
The bodies carry responsibility for “financial and practical support” as well as ideological encouragement for the attacks, he wrote. The ruling covered attacks carried by groups allied with the PA and PLO, as well as by rivals Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The ruling covers 17 individual attacks on both civilians and soldiers, starting with a 1996 shooting at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus during unrest following the opening of the Western Wall tunnels.
Drori was responding to suits brought by dozens of families who lost loved ones in the attacks.
Initial media reports of the ruling suggest the families whose suits were considered by the district court are asking for as much as NIS 1 billion ($280 million) in damages. For now, the families were awarded NIS 5.5 million in legal fees to be paid by the PA and the PLO.
Drori specifically cited late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and said it was “the declared policy of the PLO and PA … to carry out terror attacks against Israel.”
He claimed the PA and PLO officials lionized the killers of Israeli civilians in official publications, in public rallies, and by naming streets and city squares after them.
Leitner, the president of Shurat Hadin-Israeli Law Center, called the decision a “historic victory.”
Drori based his ruling that found the PA and PLO did not constitute a state and was not immune to tort claims on a landmark 2014 case in which he had ordered the PA and the perpetrators of a highway shooting attack to pay NIS 62 million ($17.6 million) in damage. Three Jewish Israelis were killed in that attack.
Drori ruled then that the PA was in part liable, also due to having financed and provided the weapons, for the deaths of Sharon and Yaniv Ben-Shalom and Doron Severi, who were shot dead by Palestinians near the beginning of the Second Intifada in August 2001.
The PA was ordered to pay 40 percent of the damages, with the killers ordered to pay the rest.