Israeli court: Palestinians to pay damages to attack victims

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli court has ordered the Palestinian Authority to pay nearly $150 million in damages to the families of people killed in militant attacks.

The decision comes following a lawsuit brought by Shurat Hadin, an Israeli legal advocacy group, on behalf of relatives of victims from a number of attacks, mostly carried out during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s. A previous court ruling from last year found the Palestinian Authority to be liable for those attacks, along with other actors.

In its decision Friday, the Jerusalem court ruled that the funds would come from tax money that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Shurat Hadin had asked that more than $2 billion be paid in compensation.

The court gave Israel until next month to request that the order be annulled. Israel might consider appealing if it fears the freezing of the funds could destabilize the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

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“We continue to fight even 20 years later and we will not rest until we achieve justice for terror victims,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the head of Shurat Hadin.

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian official who coordinates the Palestinian Authority’s communication with Israel, called the decision “piracy and and theft of Palestinian money.”

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects customs duties and other taxes on behalf of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, and transfers the funds to the Palestinians each month. These transfers cover a sizable chunk of the Palestinian government’s budget.

Israel has in the past frozen the transfers to penalize the Palestinians for certain policies or actions.

The court ruling comes as relations between Israel and the Palestinians are at a low, with a new Israeli government expected to work toward annexing parts of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want for their future state.

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