Judge Ram Winograd
Judge Ram WinogradCourts website

An Israeli court has rejected a lawsuit by 37 Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs, who demanded compensation for an alleged IDF “massacre” of their relatives, reports Maariv. In addition, the court ruled that the plaintiffs must pay 210,000 shekels to the State of Israel, in compensation for the sums it had to spend on legal fees for its defense.

The lawsuit relates to events that took place on February 19 and 20, 2002, at the height of the massive terror war launched by the PA against Israel some 17 months earlier, and usually referred to by its Arab name, the Second Intifada. On the 19th, a terrorist squad surprised an IDF force at the Ein Arik checkpoint near Beit El, and killed six soldiers. On the next night, IDF special forces attacked PA checkpoints in Shechem and Ramallah, killing 15 PA policemen.

The heirs of seven of these men filed a lawsuit at the Haifa District Court in July of 2005, claiming that the men were “murdered in a massacre initiated by the defendants.” They claimed that the action had been “initiated and planned by the highest echelons in the political and security establishment.”

The state replied that the attack on the police checkpoints was carried out after the IDF concluded that the PA police support terrorism. The PA police was therefore defined as an enemy force and its positions were attacked accordingly.

For procedural reasons, the case was transferred to the Jerusalem District Court in 2012, with Judge Ram Winograd presiding, adds Maariv. The plaintiffs' “strongest card,” it says, was an affidavit signed by Oren Klisman, an officer who took part in one of the attacks on the PA police.

Klisman published his account of the operation in a leftist blog, “Warriors for Peace.”

Twenty-four hours after the massacre at Ein Arik, he wrote, “we received an unusual order – to eliminiate all of the Palestinian police officers at a number of checkpoints in the West Bank. Te word 'revenge' was never mentioned, but it was clear that we were supposed to exact revenge for the soldiers' deaths.”

"In our unit, we called the attack 'a terror attack,' and another unit took things further and called in a 'massacre.' The official military response was that these policemen were terrorists, but I do not believe that at all, since there was no attempt to arrest them.”

Judge Winograd was unimpressed by the affidavit and noted that the operation was never defined as a revenge action. He added that the fighting between the IDF force and the PA police at one of the checkpoints that the IDF attacked began when the foorces were at a distance of hundreds of meters from each other. The testimony from eyewitnesses, together with a video recording of the attack, indicated that this was a pitched battle and not a “massacre,” he wrote.

The judge noted that the attack at Ein Arik was the last straw in a series of actions that led the IDF to redefine the PA police as an enemy force. As such, it the PA police were a legitimate target for attack.

"Every sovereign state has the right to defend itself,” the judge ruled.