Court Awards Damages to Bedouin Who Lost Arm to Cluster Bomb

Prosecutors argued the plaintiff should have bought survey maps, never mind that the Negev firing zone was not posted. Court disagreed.

A Bedouin man whose right arm was severed and whose left leg was injured when a cluster bomb blew up near a Negev army base in 2003 was awarded damages of NIS 83,561 on Sunday, after the court rejected the argument that he should have bought and read a map.

Ali Abu Jalidan had sued the Defense Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority in the Be'er Sheva Magistrate's Court. His award includes compensation for pain and suffering as well as for lost income.

In one court session, the state argued that had Abu Jalidan obtained and studied ordnance survey maps of the area, as he should have, he would have known about the firing zone and could have avoided injury.

In his ruling, Deputy Court President Judge Iddo Rusin took the Defense Ministry to task for that position, saying the army knew that Bedouins frequented the area but failed to warn them of the dangers. Also, the area in which the device had fallen was neither posted nor fenced off as a firing range.

The incident occurred near the Israel Defense Forces' Shivta army base, in the western Negev. Abu Jalidan entered the area to look for errant camels when a dud cluster bomb exploded nearby, injuring him gravely.

He was admitted to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, where he remained for more than six weeks of treatment and rehabilitation.

During the court proceedings the prosecutor claimed that Abu Jalidan actually entered the firing zone not to search for his camels but rather to steal scrap metal.

Rusin rejected the state's arguments and accepted Abu Jalidan's version of events.

"From all of the evidence before me," Rusin wrote, "a disturbing picture arises of a firing zone with numerous dangers that was not fenced in nor marked with signs warning civilians."

Even if Abu Jalidan had obtained ordnance survey maps, Rusin said, they would not have helped him to orient himself in the absence of markings in the field.

Furthermore, the judge said, it was unreasonable to expect Abu Jalidan to obtain a map when reasonable and not prohibitively expensive action on the part of the defendants would have prevented the injuries.

The southern district prosecutor's office said it was studying the verdict and was considering an appeal.