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March 31, 2015
Shurat HaDin on Monday filed a war crimes complaint with the US Department of Justice against a range of Hamas commanders for indiscriminate rocket fire against Ben-Gurion Airport during the summer Gaza war.
The complaints by 26 Americans on flights which were redirected or cancelled or were present at the airport on July 22 when most American and international airlines cancelled their flights due to rocket fire which struck close by, were filed with the DOJ as Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki is set to meet with International Criminal Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Wednesday to formally finalize the Palestinians ratification of the ICC’s Rome Statute.
The NGO’s goal is for DOJ to criminally prosecute the Hamas commanders and rocket crew members involved, including: Khaled Mashaal, Hamdan Awad Sami Abu Zuhri, Hudheifa Samir Abdullah Allachlot, Ahmad Ghandour, Raed Saad, Marwan Abd al-Karim Issa and Salah Amar Dalul, in the US court system.
The Americans allege that Hamas terrorists “intentionally launched rockets at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport throughout the summer which resulted in several near-missile strike at a time that American carriers and citizens were at the airport.”
The complaints argue that American law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 37(a), provides prison sentences of up to 20 years for any person who “unlawfully and intentionally uses any substance or weapon to perform an act of violence at an international airport when the victim is a national of the United States.”
Further, the complaints argue that the 26 Americans includes passengers who were at the Ben-Gurion Airport at the time of the terrorist rocket attacks and had to flee into bomb shelters as well as 273 passengers traveling on Delta Air Lines Flight 468 from New York that was diverted to Paris as a result of the dangerous situation.
Hamas commander Mohammed Deif is not on the list on the estimate that he may have been killed during the war based on news reports and his absence from public life, though no formal Hamas announcement was ever made.
The Shurat HaDin complaint was organized by attorney Robert Tolchin of New York and Shurat HaDin chairwoman Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
During the Gaza War, note the complaints, the terrorist Hamas rockets targeting Israel’s international airport resulted in warning sirens to be repeatedly to be sounded at the airport causing American and non-American passengers to seek shelter in secured areas of the compound.
More than 4,800 rockets and 1,700 mortars were fired from Gaza, with a large percentage targeting Israel’s center region which includes the Ben-Gurion Airport.
Discussing the rocket fire phenomenon more generally, the complaints say that 225 rockets struck Israeli civilian centers and that six Israeli civilians were killed by the Palestinian rocket fire.
More specifically on July 22, following a Palestinian rocket strike on a civilian home in the near-by city of Yehud, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a ban on American flagged airlines from flying to or from the Tel Aviv.
The complaints say that following the FAA ban, it notes Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri proclaiming, “The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure.”
The DOJ complaint is the first time that Shurat HaDin is filing war crime allegations against Hamas in jurisdictions of a nation allied with Israel.
According to Darshan-Leitner, Hamas “intentionally targeted Ben-Gurion airport this summer with the goal of killing passengers and destroying international carriers. Hamas openly boasted of its success when the FAA prohibited American flights to Ben-Gurion during the terrorist rocket attacks. The United States Department of Justice has the clear jurisdiction to indict these Hamas leaders and the Attorney General needs to let the Palestinian terrorists understand that they will no longer be getting a free pass for the war crimes they committed.”
She added, “We will continue to file complaints against Palestinian leaders both in the ICC and in many other national jurisdictions for the war crimes they have perpetrated against civilians.”