Eleven families of victims of Palestinian suicide bombings during the Second Intifada brought a massive $1 billion lawsuit to a US federal court under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1981, alleging that the Palestinian Authority had personally funded suicide bombers during the conflict. The case began in 2004, brought by the Shurat HaDin Israeli law group on behalf of the families of eleven American victims. Shurat HaDin's goal throughout the case was to demonstrate and highlight the Palestinian Authority's personal involvement in the funding and planning of seven major terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of thirty three people between 2001 and 2004. In the past the Palestinian Authority had preferred to settle similar matters out of court, but this case represented a landmark because it was public and therefore allowed open access to the Palestinian Authority's files and documents.
The attacks in question clearly targetted civilians, such as the bombing at the Hebrew University cafeteria on July 31, 2002, that killed nine students including Americans and injured over one hundred others. Evidence being brought to trial included the past criminal convictions of Palestinian Authority members, and proof of payments made to and promotions given to the individuals who carried out the attacks. Statements that reveal the Palestinian Authority's blatant incitement of violence and approval of the attacks, in addition to evidence that the PA supplyed personnel and bomb-making equipment to Hamas were some of the most damning pieces of evdence presented. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat HaDin, representing the victims families, stated that “those involved in the attacks still receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority and still get promoted in rank while in jail,” and claimed that the case was “full of evidence” that the Palestinian Authority played a large role in orchestrating the attacks.
Mark Rochon, the attorney for the Palestinian Authority, asserted throughout the trial that the Palestinian Authority was not aware of the attacks, and argued that a large organization like that can not be held liable for the actions of lone suicide bombers and gunmen.
Closing arguments in the case were delivered on February 19, 2015. The Palestinian Authority was worried that a negative ruling could severely hurt them not only financially, but also hurt their cause as they attempted to take Israel to the International Criminal Court under war crimes accusations for acts committed during Operation Protective Edge. A ruling in favor of the victims instead of the Palestinian Authority would represent a setback in their bid for statehood as well, which they plan on resubmitting to the United Nations after Israeli elections on March 17th.
In a ruling handed down on February 23, 2015, after more than a decade of legal troubles with jurisdiction, a United States federal court found the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization lialbe for damages suffered by US civilians in the wake of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The Palestinian Authority was found responsible for the attacks and fined $218.5 million in damages, a number that will be tripled to $655.5 million in accordance with the US Anti-Terrorism Act. Palestinian Authority officials responded to the verdict immediately, saying that they plan to appeal it, but made no mention of intention or capacity to pay the fine. If the Palestinian Authority cannot come up with the money, as with any other case, lawyers for the victims and their families can petition to have their bank accounts frozen and require them to turn over real estate and other property and posessions.