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13 years after the 2003 shooting death of a West Bank resident by an Israeli soldier: the state agrees to pay the widow and orphans “ex-gratia” compensation

On November 6, 2003, a resident of Anabta, in Tulkarm District, was returning home back from work. Near the Anabta/Einav checkpoint, he came upon soldiers in pursuit of a suspect, an encounter that ended with this innocent passerby's death, shot dead by one of the soldiers. For thirteen years, his widow struggled with the Israeli authorities, which refused to pay her and her children any compensation for the tragic death of her husband. Following a complaint filed by HaMoked, in 2004, an investigation was opened by the Military Police Investigation Unit, but two years later – after “disciplinary action” was taken against several of the soldiers who were involved in the incident – the case was closed. None of the commanding officers or the shooter were indicted; the life of an innocent man were cut short, without anyone of the involved being held accountable.

On July 31, 2005, HaMoked filed a lawsuit against the state to the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court, seeking monetary compensation for the widow and orphaned children. In its statement of defense, the state denied any direct link between the soldiers’ actions and the man’s death, and disclaimed any responsibility for the tragic consequences of the incident. The state also claimed that the harm to the deceased occurred during “wartime action”, as then defined in “Civil wrongs (Liability of the State) Law”, 5712-1952, under which, the state is released from liability in tort.

On July 16, 2012, the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) enacted Amendment No. 8 of Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law, whereby, upon the state’s claim of “wartime action”, the court must immediately review this claim and thereupon dismiss the case at this stage, if it finds the case in hand does indeed constitute “wartime action”. Shortly after, on January 10, 2013, the state asked the court to consider the claim of “wartime action” in the case of the man’s death.

In the court hearing, held on June 19, 2014, HaMoked argued there were flaws in the evidentiary infrastructure and maintained that neither the shooter nor the other soldiers who had been present during the shooting had been summoned to testify in the case. HaMoked asserted also that this had been a policing action and that the state had failed to prove that the case fell within the legal definition of “wartime action”. Moreover, stressed HaMoked, acceptance of the state’s contention would lead to an absurd situation, whereby “not a single action taking place in the OPT could constitute a policing action”.

In the judgment, issued March 31, 2015, the court accepted the state’s “wartime action” exemption claim, despite “significant questions about the reasonableness of this shooting”, and dismissed the lawsuit. Thus the court released the state from its liability towards the deceased’s family, while remarking, nonetheless, that “given the tragic circumstances of the case and the fact that the deceased had left behind a widow and children with no breadwinner, it may be assumed that the defendant will act to assist [them] as much as possible”.

As justice was not achieved in court, on May 28, 2015, HaMoked submitted to the Ministry of Defense’s “Ex-Gratia Committee” a request to grant the family “ex gratia” compensation. HaMoked stressed that this innocent man had violently lost his life for no wrong he had done, and left behind a family struggling to make ends meet.

On October 10, 2016, the Ministry of Defense announced that the ex-gratia committee had accepted the request and decided to pay the widow and orphaned children ex-gratia compensation in the sum of ILS 250,000. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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