As news broke of the death of Kim Jong-il on Monday, the Tel Aviv-based NGO Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin) accused North Korea of decades-long sponsorship of terror in the Middle East.

The Israel Law Center is representing 30 American Israelis who are suing North Korea and Hezbollah in a civil suit in the US District Court in Washington for damages caused by rocket attacks during the Second Lebanon War, in which 43 civilians were killed and 4,262 were injured, according to the suit.

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US anti-terror legislation allows US terror victims and their families to file civil suits against foreign state terror sponsors and terrorist organizations, including suits regarding terror attacks that did not take place on US soil.

The Israel Law Center first filed the suit, known as Kaplan vs. Hezbollah, in 2010 and after the defendants did not respond to the lawsuit, the judge declared them in default and ordered the plaintiffs to prove their damages. In addition to Hezbollah and North Korea, the lawsuit names ten anonymous North Korean agents who the plaintiffs argue assisted Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.

The plaintiffs include a Safed resident who suffered serious injuries and is permanently disabled after his car was directly hit by a Hezbollah rocket. Another is a mother whose small daughter was hospitalized and suffered severe trauma after a rocket exploded next to her.

The Israel Law Center allowed The Jerusalem Post to see copies of expert testimonies filed with the suit to strengthen the plaintiffs’ claim that North Korea is liable because it worked directly with Iran to provide Hezbollah with the extensive material support that enabled it to launch rocket attacks against Israel.

In one of the affidavits, security expert Professor Bruce Bechtol, a former professor of international relations at the Marine Corps Command, claims North Korea’s ties to Hezbollah formed out of its relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG), an immensely powerful military unit loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Before the Second Lebanon War, North Korea sent missile components to Iran, where they were assembled and then shipped to Hezbollah’s leaders in southern Lebanon, specifically for use against Israeli civilian targets.

Kim Jung-il’s regime also helped the Lebanese terror group build an extensive network of underground military installations, bunkers, tunnels and storage facilities in south Lebanon, under the auspices of a front company, the Korea Mining Development Corporation. It also gave Hezbollah leaders weapons and intelligence training to improve attacks against Israel.

In a second expert report, Professor Barry Rubin, the director of the GLORIA Center at the IDC in Herzliya, claims North Korean experts helped Hezbollah build a 25-kilometer tunnel in southern Lebanon, which was used during the Second Lebanon War to transport, store and assemble rockets.

Rubin argues that even after the Second Lebanon War, North Korea has continued to supply Hezbollah with weapons via the regime in Tehran, including M-600 rockets that would allow Hezbollah to strike targets in central Israel.

Significantly, the Israel Law Center’s director, attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said North Korea’s active support of Middle Eastern terror is not new but stretches back almost four decades, a claim the Israel Law Center emphasizes in Kaplan vs. Hezbollah.

In his expert testimony, Bechtol argues that in the 1970s, the North Korean regime, then led by Kim Jong-il’s father Kim Il-sung, gave financial assistance to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) via the Japanese Red Army (JRA), a Communist terror group.

North Korean funding helped the two terror groups perpetrate the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre, killing 26 people and wounding another 80.

The lawsuit claims PFLP founder George Habash visited North Korea in 1970 to seek weapons and funding.

Shortly after, PFLP leader Wadi Hadad sought the assistance of three JRA terrorists – Kozo Okamoto, Yasuyuki Yasuda and Tsuyoshi Okudaira – because of their successful hijacking of a Japanese airplane that year.

“[The PFLP] first wanted to hijack an El-Al plane,” Darshan- Leitner said. “But when they realized that would not be possible, they planned to kill Israelis in a terror attack.”

Using Czech Vz 58 assault rifles hidden in violin cases and checked in as regular baggage on an Air France flight from Rome, Okamoto and his fellow PFLP-recruited JRA terrorists opened fire on passengers in Lod airport’s arrivals lounge. Among those killed were eight Israelis, including renowned biophysicist Aharon Katzir, and 17 US citizens of Puerto Rico, who were Christian pilgrims on a trip to the Holy Land.

Okamoto, a convert to Islam, was captured, but released in 1985 as part of the Jibril prisoner exchange agreement. He is presumed to be living in Lebanon.

Last July, the Israel Law Center won a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit against North Korea on behalf of the victims of that attack, a victory that Darshan-Leitner said will “secure a measure of justice for the terror victims and teach North Korea that it cannot continue to support Hezbollah with impunity.”

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