Beit Hanun Families Planning to Sue Israel for Monetary Damages

The three Palestinian families are relatives of the 19 civilians killed in IDF shelling last week.

The three Palestinian families who lost 19 relatives in last week's shelling by the Israel Defense Forces of Beit Hanun plan to sue Israel for monetary damages. Representatives of the Athamneh, Kassem and Aduan families have already hired attorney Ehud Segev to represent them in their suit.

Rassan Kassem, who lost his oldest brother and now spends most of his time alongside his mother's bed at Ichilov Hospital, told Haaretz that they believe the circumstances of the shelling of their home were different than those of other cases in which Palestinian civilians were killed. "I know there is a conflict and war, but this time Israel openly admitted the artillery fire was a mistake," Kassem explains.

"We know Israel does not recognize Palestinian claims, but this is a special case. There was no battle in the area and no Qassam came from us. These people were killed sleeping in their beds. Even Israel recognized that this is different and accepted responsibility, now it must compensate us."

Kassem said the families had other options for action such as appealing to the International Court at the Hague. According to Kassem, Palestinian entities and international human rights organizations are urging them to go the Hague route in order to intensify the political aspect of the circumstances in which they lost their relatives. However, at this time, the families have rejected this idea and also have reservations about acting through Arab members of Knesset.

"There may be some who will be angry with us for appealing directly to Israel through an Israeli lawyer, but even the Palestinian Authority itself has only petitioned the Hague once and that was on the separation fence," Kassem said.

He clarified his position saying, "We prefer to make a quiet deal with Israel and only if this is rejected will we consider what else to do."

Attorney Segev confirmed for Haaretz that he has been asked to represent the families, but declined to comment on the legal aspects of the claim. "I am examining the claim separate from the Israel-Palestinian conflict and am only looking at the moral and ethical issue of compensation by those who accept responsibility for substantial error and its results. Israel's morality mandates that it must also accept responsibility for compensation," the lawyer said.

Segev declined to comment on any legal measures he has taken.