A trial to decide the culpability of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a series of attacks on Israel over a decade ago began at a federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday, according to media reports. The trial, which is reportedly expected to last up to eight weeks, focuses on six instances of shootings and bombings in and around Jerusalem between 2002 and 2004.
The decade-old lawsuit was filed under the U.S. Antiterrorism Act of 1991, which provides legal recourse to American victims of “international terrorism.” Relatives of American nationals, who were killed and injured in the attacks, have demanded $1 billion in damages from PLO and PA, according to media reports.
“The evidence will show killing civilians was the standard operating procedure for the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority,” Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, reportedly said. “Terrorism tore these families apart -- not just physically, but in many cases, emotionally.”
However, the defense lawyers countered that the Palestinian Authority, which employs over 100,000 people, should not be held liable for attacks carried out by individuals “acting on their own angry, crazy reasons,” according to media reports.
“These acts were horrific … Nobody defends what happened. But the people who did it aren't here,” Mark Rochon, a lawyer representing the defendants, reportedly said.
It is believed that over 30 people were killed and over 300 were injured in several attacks carried out by Hamas and militants of the Islamic Jihad group between 2002 and 2004. In one of the deadliest attacks during the peak of the second Intifada -- a period of intensified violence between Israel and Palestine between 2000 and 2005 -- 24 people were reportedly killed in a suicide bombing that targeted a bus near Jerusalem. Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, had later claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to media reports, lawyers for PA and PLO argued that a U.S. court should not have jurisdiction over the case as the organizations were based in the West Bank. However, the judge reportedly rejected the arguments and allowed the case to proceed.