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On December 8, 2005, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) brought a class action lawsuit against Avi Dichter, the former Director of Israel’s General Security Service (GSS), on behalf of the Palestinians who were killed or injured in a 2002 air strike in Gaza. The attack occurred just before midnight on July 22, 2002, when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dropped a one-ton bomb on al-Daraj, a residential neighborhood in Gaza City in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The attack killed seven adults and eight children, including plaintiff Ra'ed Matar's wife and their three young children and plaintiff Mahmoud Al Huweiti's wife and two of their young sons. It injured over 150 others, including plaintiff Marwan Zeino, whose spinal vertebrae were crushed.
The attack was widely condemned by the international community, including the U.S. government, at the time. On July 23, 2002, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer stated that President Bush condemned this "deliberate attack against a building in which civilians were known to be located." These attacks on civilians, however, are ongoing, with the IDF carrying out regular air strikes on residential neighborhoods in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to this day.
The case charges Avi Dichter, then Director of Israel's General Security Service (GSS), with war crimes and other gross human rights violations for his participation in the decision to drop the bomb on the residential neighborhood, and charges that GSS provided the necessary intelligence and final approval to implement the attack. Dichter was served papers in New York at 10:30 pm on the night of December 7, 2005. He retired from the GSS earlier this year and has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
CCR Attorney Maria LaHood said, "Today's suit is part of a critical international movement to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and other human rights abuses abroad when their own governments are unwilling to do so. Intentional attacks on civilians cannot be tolerated by the international community."
Raji Sourani, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said, "Justice must finally be delivered to the Palestinian families in this lawsuit who have suffered tremendously because of Avi Dichter's decision to bomb the al-Daraj neighborhood. These families are representative of scores of other Palestinians who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of Dichter's actions."
The Plaintiffs are represented by Jennifer Green and Maria LaHood from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and CCR Cooperating Counsel Judith Brown Chomsky and Michael Poulshock.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.