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Israeli court orders Hamas to pay $11.8m for 'murdering settlers'

A view of a court house in Haifa on 10 February 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
A view of an Israeli court house, 10 February 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

An Israeli court in Jerusalem ordered the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement on Monday to pay NIS38 million ($11.8m) to the families of three Israeli settlers who went missing in the occupied West Bank in 2014, Ynet News has reported. Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel went missing in June 2014 and were eventually found dead.

Israel has accused Hamas of kidnapping and murdering the settlers. At the time, young Palestinian Hussam Al-Qawasmeh, from the occupied city of Hebron, was detained by the Israeli occupation forces and accused of planning the alleged crime.

In a brutal act of revenge and collective punishment — a war crime — Israel launched a military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza that lasted 51 days, during which more than 2,260 Palestinians were killed. More than 11,000 others were wounded, dozens of them with life-changing injuries.

The families of the Israeli settlers, said Ynet News, originally sought NIS520 million ($162m) in compensation, citing the psychological damage during the two and a half week-long search.

READ: US: number of Jewish Americans moving to illegal settlements increases 'dramatically' 

In the predictable absence of a legal defence on behalf of Hamas — which is designated as a "terrorist" organisation in Israel — the families won the case by default. The amount of punitive damages is based on a previous Supreme Court ruling that significantly reduced the amounts of damages in "terrorist claims".

The settlers' families are not satisfied with the ruling, and claim that it will not deter Hamas from carrying out attacks in the future. "The ruling is not sufficient, because the State of Israel must crack down on terrorism as hard as possible," said Eyal Yifrach's father Uri. "Our goal is to undermine the economic and legal tools of the terrorist organisations, to teach them a lesson and, God willing, to prevent the next incident."

The families are planning to appeal. It is suggested that Israel could deduct the compensation from tax revenue collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Israel has withheld NIS600 million ($187m) from such revenue in a bid to prevent the payment of stipends to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the families of Palestinians who were killed or wounded by the Israeli occupation forces.

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