A Gazan family has filed an NIS 851 million (about $200.5 million) lawsuit with the Nazareth District Court against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.
The claim was filed with the Nazareth District Court by Attorney Mohammad Foukara, on behalf of 79 members of the al-Samoni family from the Gaza Strip's Zeitoun neighborhood, which lost 29 of its members in Operation Cast Lead.
Forty-five of the family members were injured in the Israeli offensive.
In the past, Israeli courts have consistently rejected similar lawsuits filed by Palestinians demanding compensation for injuries caused to them and damage caused to their property as a result of the Israel Defense Forces' activity in the territories.
The claims were denied with the argument that the damage was caused at a time of war and that the forces had acted in accordance with "a military need".
According to the latest lawsuit, the family members resided in a three-story building north of the former settlement of Netzarim. A week after the operation was launched, on the morning of January 4, IDF forces fired a shell which hit the family members' apartment on the third floor, burning it completely.
Seven of the family members were killed in the incident and several others were injured. The remaining family members were removed from their home and gathered in a place resembling a shelter, which housed a total of 97 people.
A day after arriving at the shelter, in the morning hours, the "catastrophe" began, according to the lawsuit. An IDF shell killed one person and injured three others, and additional shells were fired several minutes later.
"The plaintiffs didn't even know, and the security forces did not inform them or warn them, as customary before firing," Attorney Foukara wrote.
The statement of claim went on to say that 22 people were killed at the shelter incident, and that 45 people were injured in total in both events, most of them children aged eight to 14.
The attorney said in the claim for punitive damages that the al-Samoni family members were simply sitting in their house without bothering anyone.
"They were sitting at home, in a place meant to provide them with quiet, peace and rest – far from the firing. There is no disagreement over the fact that this was criminal negligence on the part of the military force, which murdered and injured innocent people who were simply present at their home.
The lawsuit accuses Olmert, Barak and Ashkenazi of negligence, carelessness, and violating the duty by law on the part of the defendants or their soldiers. The IDF troops, according to the claim, fired at the plaintiffs without any justification, killed and injured them, did not take all the precautions and fired while ignoring the possibility of hurting innocent people.
"This is not the only lawsuit," said Attorney Foukara. "The al-Samoni family members approached me a week ago, and I assume that additional similar claims will be filed in the coming weeks."
About a week ago, a family from the Jabaliya refugee camp filed a similar claim for NIS 183 million ($43 million) in damages, after 11 of its children were killed and five others were injured.
Aviad Glickman contributed to this report