Israel rocket victims fail in bid to sue Al Jazeera

Plaintiffs, injured by Hezbollah attacks in 2nd Lebanon War, claimed that broadcaster helped militants locate targets; NY court rejects $1.2b suit.

Hezbollah rocket launcher 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Hezbollah rocket launcher 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
NEW YORK - Victims of 2006 rocket strikes on Israel cannot sue Al Jazeera on grounds the broadcaster intentionally helped Hezbollah attack civilians by reporting the sites of explosions, a US judge ruled this week.
The Israeli plaintiffs, who were asking for $1.2 billion in damages from Al Jazeera, said the Qatar-based news network helped Hezbollah militants target their rockets more accurately during the 34-day war with Israel.
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Their lawsuit, filed a year ago, argued that a Manhattan court had jurisdiction over the case because US citizens had been harmed.
In her opinion dismissing the suit, Manhattan federal court Judge Kimba Wood said the victims had failed to show Al Jazeera had the specific intention of aiding Hezbollah.
"Plaintiffs have offered no facts suggesting that defendant even knew that it was providing anything to Hezbollah," Wood said, adding the victims "have offered no facts suggesting that Hezbollah viewed defendant's broadcasts."
The plaintiffs in the case -- American, Israeli and Canadian citizens who were injured or saw family members killed in the attacks -- argued in court papers that Al Jazeera intentionally helped Hezbollah by broadcasting in real-time the precise locations and results of their rocket campaign.
One of the plaintiffs said in the original complaint that she had a miscarriage as a result of a rocket explosion near her home. Another said he "saw his wife torn to pieces."
Their lawyer, Robert Joseph Tolchin, could not be immediately reached for comment. A lawyer for Al Jazeera declined to comment.
The plaintiffs also sought in court papers to establish that Al Jazeera was liable for "aiding and abetting terrorism" under the Alien Torts Claims Act. The judge, however, citing an appeals court decision, found "corporations cannot be held liable for violations of customary international law."
The plaintiffs had sought $1.2 billion from Al Jazeera as well as punitive damages to be determined in court.
The war between Israel and Hezbollah lasted from July 6 to August 14, 2006. The fighting was halted by a United Nations Security Council resolution after hundreds of people had died.
The case is Kaplan et al v Al Jazeera, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No 10-05298.