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U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Terror Victims’ Lawsuit Against Palestinians

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization gained a legal victory at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday as the justices refused to consider reinstating a $655.5 million jury award won against them by 11 American families over militant attacks in Israel.

The court declined to hear the families’ appeal of a lower court’s 2016 ruling throwing out the jury award secured in a lawsuit brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act, a law that lets American victims of international terrorism seek damages in U.S. courts.

The families had looked to hold the Palestinian Authority and PLO liable for six shootings and bombings between 2002 and 2004 in the Jerusalem area that killed 33 people, including several Americans, and wounded more than 450.

“It’s outrageous that the murderous Palestinian Authority is allowed to kill innocent civilians and not have to pay any cost. This is a horrible travesty of justice for the families and we will not let it stand,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, which represents the American families.

Gassan Baloul, a lawyer for the Palestinian defendants, said he was “gratified” that the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court that the high court left in place “respects the constitutional limits on the jurisdiction of U.S. courts,” Baloul added.

President Trump’s administration had sided with the Palestinian Authority and PLO in the dispute, urging the justices not to take up the case because the specific claims could not be brought under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The attacks at the center of the lawsuit have been attributed to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas. Lead plaintiff Mark Sokolow, his wife and their two daughters were injured in a 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

The 2nd Circuit ordered that the civil lawsuit, which began in January 2004, be dismissed. The appeals court said the attacks occurred “entirely outside” U.S. territory, and found no evidence that Americans were targeted. As a result, American courts do not have jurisdiction to hear the claims, it said.

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