Mideast conflict, U.S. jury
NEW YORK – The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority backed a series of terrorist attacks in the early 2000s in Israel that killed or wounded several Americans, a U.S. jury found Monday in awarding hundreds of millions of dollars in damages at a high-stakes civil trial.
In finding the Palestinian entities liable in the attacks, jurors awarded the victims $218.5 million in damages for the bloodshed in attacks that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more – damages their lawyers said would automatically be tripled under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act.
The case in Manhattan and another in Brooklyn have been viewed as the most notable attempts by American victims of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to use U.S. courts to seek damages that could reach into the billions of dollars.
The Palestinian Authority, which had argued that the attackers acted on their own, said it would appeal. “The charges that were made against us are baseless,” Deputy Minister of Information Mahmoud Khalifa said in a statement.
None of the victims or their relatives was in the courtroom Monday for the verdict, but their lawyers called it a victory in the fight against terrorism.
“It’s about accountability. It’s about justice,” attorney Kent Yalowitz said. He and an attorney with the Shurat HaDin Law Center, also called the Israel Law Center, vowed to collect the damages by pursuing Palestinian Authority and PLO bank accounts, securities accounts, real estate, and other property that may be in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere.
“Now, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority know there is a price” for supporting terrorism, Israel Law Center attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said.
Palestinian officials have been anxiously watching the case. The verdict could hamper their campaign for international recognition of their independence in the absence of a peace deal with Israel, and the damages could be a financial blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank.