Palestinian officials disappointed by US court ruling

Published February 24th, 2015 - 03:00 GMT

Palestinian officials expressed disappointment and condemnation Tuesday after a US jury ordered authorities to pay $218 million in damages to American victims of six separate attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004.

Mahmoud Khalifa, deputy minister of Information in the Palestinian Authority, said both the PLO and PA were "deeply disappointed" by the New York court's decision.

The minister labeled the charges as "baseless" and said the PA would appeal the decision.

"We are confident that we will prevail, as we have faith in the US legal system and are certain about our common sense belief and our strong legal standing."

Khalifa said the case was the latest attempt by anti-peace factions in Israel to abuse the US legal system in order to block the two-state solution, build illegal settlements and attack the limited resources of the PA.

"The decision is a tragic disservice to the millions of Palestinians who have invested in the democratic process and the rule of law in order to seek justice and redress their grievances, and to the international community which has invested so much in financial and political capital in a two-state solution in which the PLO and PNA are paramount," he added.

The PA will continue to combat extremism and maintains a strong commitment to non-violent resistance, Khalifa said.

"We stand ready to be a partner in peace and an unyielding advocate for the rights of our people and homeland to exist as a free, independent, democratic and prosperous state, living in peace with our neighbors."

Palestinian cabinet ministers on Tuesday also slammed the court decision, calling it a "reversal of truth and injustice" against the Palestinian people.

The ministers noted that during the period which the court case covered -- between 2002 and 2004 -- Israel virtually destroyed all civil society and security institutions in the West Bank, reoccupied all major Palestinian cities, and killed hundreds of Palestinians.

Israeli military forces also arrested hundreds of Palestinians.

The cabinet ministers also condemned Israel's continued refusal to transfer PA tax revenues amounting to $127 million, which has contributed to a major salary crisis within the PA.

In a verdict issued late on Monday, a US jury found the Ramallah-based PA and the PLO responsible for six attacks which killed 33 people and wounded more than 390 others between January 2002 and January 2004.

The attacks were carried out by militants from Hamas and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of the Fatah movement headed at the time by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and later taken over by current president Mahmud Abbas.

It held both the PA and the PLO liable and ordered them to pay those wounded and the victims' families more than $218 million in damages.

Under the US anti-terrorism act, the damages are automatically tripled, meaning the full amount is more than $650 million.

Israel welcomed the decision as a "moral victory" but the Palestinians charged that the lawsuit was politically motivated and vowed to appeal.

The total falls well short of the $1 billion sought by lawyers for 11 plaintiff families when the trial opened in mid-January.

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