US court awards $111m. against Hezbollah to families hurt by rocket fire

It is unclear how the award will be enforced as Hezbollah is an unregulated terrorist group that launders its funds through a variety of criminal and legitimate enterprises.

A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/ALI HASHISHO)
A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALI HASHISHO)

Hezbollah owes $111 million in damages to 12 US families injured in rocket attacks during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled in a default judgment.

Because there has been no prior judgment like this against Hezbollah, the case set a new precedent in its use of the US Anti-Terrorism Act against the organization. The ATA allows any US national injured by an act of international terrorism to sue in US federal court.

Hezbollah is designated by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and did not appear to defend itself in court.

It is unclear how the award will be enforced as Hezbollah is an unregulated terrorist group that launders its funds through a variety of criminal and legitimate enterprises, and receives significant funding from Iran.

A historic ruling on terrorism

 An old Israeli woman walks in front of a building destroyed by a Katyusha rocket in the town of Haifa on August Monday 07.2006 (credit: Max Yelinson/Flash90) An old Israeli woman walks in front of a building destroyed by a Katyusha rocket in the town of Haifa on August Monday 07.2006 (credit: Max Yelinson/Flash90)

The 12 families were represented in the lawsuit by attorneys Robert J. Tolchin of New York and Nitsana Darshan-Leitner in Israel, who heads Shurat Hadin Law Center, an NGO that fights terrorism.

Magistrate Judge Steven Tiscione granted and recommended that the District Court award the families $111,485,900.01, arrived at by punitively tripling the initial damages finding of $37 million.

“This is a powerful and historic court victory against the terrorists that compels them to understand that Israelis will continue to pursue them even years after their rocket attacks,” said Darshan-Leitner. “With this $111m. US judgment against Hezbollah, we can begin to locate and seize their assets worldwide. Nasrallah believes he can continue to threaten Israel with his terrorist rockets, but the victims have legally struck back and aim to bankrupt him and his Iranian masters. Only by exacting a heavy price from those who engage in the business of terrorism can we prevent the suffering and loss of additional victims to their violence.”

Despite never having appeared in court, Hezbollah was given 14 days to file a written objection to the ruling.

Proceedings in the case began in the US District Court for the District of Columbia in 2009 before the case was decided by the New York federal court.

Though the decision was handed down on Friday, it was only announced late Tuesday.