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
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
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
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
IDC in Herzliya, claims North Korean experts helped Hezbollah build a
25-kilometer tunnel in southern Lebanon, which was used during the
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.
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.
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
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
“[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
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
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.”