Arab Bank Jurors Led Through Terror Plots
BROOKLYN (CN) - A terrorism expert at the Arab Bank trial gave disturbing details Tuesday of several Hamas-sponsored suicide attacks in the West Bank that killed 300 innocent civilians from 2000 to 2004.
Jerusalem-based Ronni Shaked provided details in Hebrew through an interpreter about one such attack against hundreds of Holocaust Survivors who had gathered at the Park Hotel on March 27, 2002, in Netaniya, Israel, "to celebrate Passover with friends or with other people like them," he said.
A man carrying a purse and wearing high heels, women's clothes, a wig and makeup, walked in and detonated an "explosive belt," killing 30 and injuring 140. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Shaked detailed the various attacks during his second day of testimony as a witness for families representing 300 victims killed or injured in the suicide attacks during the Second Intifada (uprising) in the West Bank. The plaintiffs filed the action about a decade ago, claiming that the bank processed payments for families of suicide bombers and provided banking for known Hamas leaders.
Shaked discussed how one woman - who became known as the "Mother of Martyrs" - "sent her 17-year-old son to die for a cause that she thought was important."
The teenager walked into a popular cafe in the heart of Jerusalem - not far from the prime minister's house and Shaked's offices - and opened fire, wounding 15.
That woman, according to published reports, would later send two more of her young sons to carry out suicide bombings. She died in 2013.
In the 40-page lawsuit that led up to the trial stretching into its second week before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, the families provided similar grim details of the Hamas-sponsored attacks, including how an Arab man dressed as a religious Jew boarded a bus in Tel Aviv, Israel, in May 2003 and detonated his explosives, killing seven and injuring 20.
Attorneys say Arab Bank handled transactions totaling $35 million while acting as "paymaster" for the Saudi Committee for the Support of Intifada Al Quds. That group then paid families of suicide bombers $5,300, often in American cash; prisoners got $2,655, while the injured got $1,300, attorneys say.
But DLA Piper attorney Shand Stephens, who is representing the bank, said during his opening arguments last week that his "couldn't possibly have known" who it was paying. "Arab Bank did not choose who to pay."
The case is considered the first civil lawsuit to make it to trial in the United States, accusing a financial institution of financing terrorism.
The families sued the bank for alleged violations of the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows victims of known terrorist groups to be compensated.
Hamas was designated a terrorist group by the United States in 1997.