Israeli court orders Palestinian Authority to pay millions

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Associated Press

JERUSALEM -- An Israeli court ordered the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday to pay $16.2 million to six relatives of two Israelis killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

It was the first Israeli ruling to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for one of the more than 100 suicide bombings since September 2000, and it will set a precedent for future claims, said the family lawyer, Roland Roth.

Ruth Peled and her granddaughter Sinai Keinan were killed in a suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Petah Tikvah in May 2002.

"The amount of compensation awarded has to take into account the terrible and unusual suffering (of the relatives) and the murderous actions of the defendants," the court said in awarding each of the six relatives $2.6 million and an additional $440,000 in legal fees.

The Palestinian Authority did not submit a defense, saying it does not recognize the Israeli court.

"We have thousands of Palestinians who could complain to Palestinian courts against Israeli actions and win billions. But a Palestinian court has no jurisdiction over Israelis, just as Israeli courts have no jurisdiction over Palestinians," said Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Hassan Abu Libdeh.

The court accepted the argument that the Palestinian Authority is "the engine that drove the wheels of the terror attacks," Roth said, noting that the attack was claimed by the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant group loosely linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party.

Both Israel and the United States have worked to sideline Arafat, accusing him of backing attacks.

"This is a precedent both in the decision and in the amount awarded," Roth said. He said he plans to bring at least 30 more claims against the Palestinians.

Roth said he would ask a court to put a lien on the money Israel transfers to the Palestinians each month to claim the damages. Taxes that Palestinians pay in Israel are transferred to the authority.

Abu Libdeh called the judgment an "Israeli pretext to confiscate Palestinian money."

Roth said he hoped that by forcing the Palestinians to pay, the suit would act as a deterrent against attacks in the future.

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