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The Magistrates' Court rejects a civil claim for damage to a widow's home and property during "Operation Defense Shield": "the house search incident falls under the definition of 'wartime action'"

At midday on February 30, 2002, during "Operation Defense Shield", military forces in Ramallah arrived at the home of the plaintiff, an elderly widow, solitary and childless, then still working as a seamstress. She was there alone when the soldiers entered the house. They turned her home upside down, broke furniture in the rooms and kitchen, and wrecked a washing machine, three sowing machines, and other equipment. Leaving her home in complete disarray, the soldiers damaged her car and smashed its windows on their way out.

Following the incident, HaMoked appealed to the Military Advocate's Office, demanding an investigation of the incident. After over six months, the plaintiff was summoned to the Military Police Investigations Unit (MIU) to give her statement of the events. A few months later, HaMoked received the State Attorney's Office's reply on the decision to close the investigation, inter alia, because "the alleged incident was not known to the relevant elements in the force, and was not documented in the relevant records." A later examination of the investigation file reveals that no real attempt was made to trace the soldiers who operated in the area, and the only person interrogated was the brigade sub commander, who had not been present on the scene.    

In April 2004, the widow filed a civil claim via HaMoked. The claim asserted that the soldiers had acted recklessly and trespassed without warrant, and that the plaintiff must be compensated for the damage to her property and single source of income. In its statement of defense, the state questioned whether the event had taken place, and added that even if the military had in fact caused the alleged damage, this fell in the scope of wartime action, which exempts the state from civil liability.

On July 3, 20011, the court rendered its judgment, determining that the plaintiff had not proved the event had happened and that inasmuch as her home had been searched, it had been part of a military operation, which requires no prior notice or warrant, and for which the state is exempt from civil liability. The court rejected the claim and imposed trial costs on the plaintiff in the sum of NIS 10,000. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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