An injured woman is helped by medics at the site of a Hezbollah rocket attack in the northern Israeli city of Haifa on August 13, 2006. (Photo: Flash90)
Americans who lived in Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War and suffered physical and emotional harm from Hezbollah rocket attacks have been awarded millions of dollars in damages by a US court.
Because it is designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the US State Department, Hezbollah was ordered to pay the plaintiffs $111 million in damages.
The group of Americans, representing 12 families, took the case to court under the US Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows any US citizen injured by terrorism to sue for damages in US District Court.
In the latter case, the court found Hezbollah liable for plaintiffs’ physical and emotional injuries and damage to property. Lawyers Robert J. Tolchin of New York and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Tel Aviv represented the families.
Darshan-Leitner said it is often difficult to enforce sanctions resulting from civil lawsuits against militant groups, but this was nonetheless a significant legal victory against the Iran-backed group.
“Only by exacting a heavy toll from those who engage in the business of terrorism can we prevent the suffering and loss of additional victims due to their violence,” she said in a statement.
In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah waged a month-long war; Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel from Lebanon, destroying property and forcing Israeli citizens into shelters. Towns and villages in northern Israel have been particularly affected, such as the major port city of Haifa and other communities. Israel struck targets in Lebanon, including the country’s international airport and other civilian infrastructure.
Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war, and Israel sees Hezbollah – the Shia militant group – as a major threat. Israel has warned that it will cause heavy damage to Lebanon if another war breaks out with the terror organization. Since then, Hezbollah has reportedly amassed an arsenal of 100,000 rockets and missiles.
In the decision released last Friday, Presiding Magistrate Judge Steven L. Tiscione of the Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, New York, said the plaintiffs had successfully established that Hezbollah’s actions constituted a violation of the anti-terrorism law.
There was no comment from Hezbollah.