Six years after 16-year-old American Daniel Wultz died of wounds he sustained in
a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, a US district court judge awarded his family $332
million in damages from Iran and Syria.
The court found that Iran and
Syria were responsible for providing material support for the April 17, 2006,
attack, in which 11 people were murdered and over 60 others wounded when an
Islamic Jihad suicide bomber detonated a bomb laced with nails and other
projectiles in a crowded south Tel Aviv fast food restaurant.
ruling, Chief Justice Royce C. Lamberth said the bombing had been a “barbaric
act” that had “no place in civilized society and represents a moral depravity
that knows no bounds.”
Daniel’s father Yekutiel “Tuly” Wultz, who was
seriously wounded in the attack; his mother, Sheryl; and his siblings Amanda and
Abraham brought the civil lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of
Columbia, under powerful US anti-terrorism laws that permit American civilians
to sue sovereign states who sponsor acts of terror.
Via their lawyers –
New York attorney Robert Tolchin and Tel Aviv attorney Nitsana Darshan- Leitner
– the Wultz family alleged that the Syrian and Iranian governments, both of
which the US has designated as state sponsors of terrorism, provided Islamic
Jihad with the material support and resources it needed to carry out the deadly attack.
The court learned that Daniel had been conscious immediately
after the bombing and up until his death, and had suffered extreme physical and
emotional pain both because he knew the horrific extent of his injuries and
because he was aware he would die from them.
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The 16-year-old suffered
wounds including severe bleeding from multiple shrapnel wounds, a perforated
bowel and multiple infections, including gangrene.
In their fight to save
his life, surgeons at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital removed several of Daniel’s
organs, and amputated two fingers and part of his right leg, but the teenager
succumbed to his injuries and died on May 14, 2006.
His father, who was
sitting with Daniel at the time of the bombing, endured extensive physical
injuries as well as severe psychological damage. He still suffers pain and
post-traumatic stress disorder, including terrifying nightmares and daily
flashbacks of the attack.
The other members of the Wultz family,
including Daniel’s mother, suffered serious psychological and emotional damage
as a result of the bombing.
In addition to Iran and Syria, the Wultz
family’s lawsuit named as defendants the Iranian Ministry of Information and
Security, the Syrian Ministry of Defense, Syrian Military Intelligence and the
Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate.
In finding all of the
plaintiffs responsible for providing the material support that led to the
suicide bombing, Lamberth said the evidence established that Islamic Jihad
“acted generally as an agent of the Iranian and Syrian defendants” and that
“their financing, encouragement and instruction prompted [the
“When a state chooses to use terror as a policy tool – as Iran
and Syria continue to do – that state forfeits its sovereign immunity and
deserves unadorned condemnation,” he said in his ruling.
The ruling cites
testimony from Dr. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iranian terror funding, who
said Iran provided annual financial support for terror of around $300 million to
According to Clawson, in 2008 Iran provided Hezbollah with around
$200m. in direct cash assistance, as well as “many tens of millions of dollars”
of sophisticated weaponry, including rockets, since 2006.
presented to the court in a two-day hearing in February showed that at the time
of the 2006 bombing, Islamic Jihad was headquartered in Damascus with the Syrian
regime’s approval and consent, and that the Syrian government would escort
potential terrorists and suicide bombers to training camps on Syrian
Expert witnesses who testified in the trial said Islamic Jihad
received “substantial logistical, financial and technical support from both the
Iranian and Syrian defendants.”
An offshoot of Hamas, Islamic Jihad was
created in 1980. Its founder, Fathi Shiqaqi, had been inspired by the Islamic
Revolution in Iran a year previously.
Until Israel assassinated him in
1995, Shiqaqi – the first Palestinian terrorist to publish a pamphlet
legitimizing suicide bombings in jihad – received funds from the Syrian
intelligence services, and his successor Ramadan Shallah continues to receive
funding from Iran and Syria, evidence presented to the court shows.
the time of the 2006 terror attack, Iranian funding passed to Islamic Jihad via
Syria, but after Hamas took over Gaza, Iran has been able to fund Islamic Jihad
and Hamas directly, the court found.
Moreover, Iran and Syria encouraged
Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror groups to use suicide bombers as a
“weapon” during the second intifada, the court found, noting that Islamic Jihad
was responsible for around a quarter of all suicide bombings in Israel during
Islamic Jihad suicide bombers also received training from
Hezbollah, which is directly funded by Iran.
“The evidence shows that
[Iran and Syria] completely lacked any semblance of remorse for this deadly
attack – and in fact, encouraged and supported this and similar attacks,”
In closing, the judge praised the Wultz family’s courage,
saying they “stood in stark contrast to the Iranian and Syrian
The family members had “resolved to fight injustice with whatever
tools were at their disposal, and their patient determination over the past six
years is a credit to both themselves and the memory of their beloved Daniel,”
The Wultz vs. Iran verdict is the latest in a series of US
courtroom victories by victims of terror against Iran that have highlighted the
extent to which the Islamic Republic funds Palestinian terror in Israel and
In March, Lamberth awarded two victims of the
1983 US Marine barracks bombing in Beirut $44.6m. in damages from
In 2007, a US federal judge ruled in a separate lawsuit, Peterson
vs. Iran, that Iran must pay $2.65 billion to the families of servicemen killed
in the Beirut attack.
While plaintiffs in these cases have actively
sought Iranian assets that could be seized to pay the court-awarded damages,
they have so far been unsuccessful.
That may be about to change, as the
US Senate may vote before the end of this month on a bill that would subject
Iranian assets to US court jurisdiction, thereby releasing them to pay against
judgements of lawsuits brought against the Islamic Republic. If the bill passes,
the plaintiffs may be able to reach nearly $2b. in Iranian debt-securities,
which currently sit frozen in a Citibank account in New
Luxembourg-based clearing house and bank Clearstream is allegedly
holding the money for Iran, a matter that came to light last November after the
Peterson plaintiffs sued Clearstream over the assets. Clearstream denies holding
funds for Iran, while Citibank is fighting for the courts to unfreeze the $2b.
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