(CN) - A man who lost his wife and children when the Israeli Defense Force bombed his apartment building to take out a suspected terrorist cannot sue the former head of Israeli intelligence for war crimes, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
A three-judge panel ruled that defendant Avraham Dichter, the former director of the Israeli Security Agency, is immune from suit under common law.
Ra'ed Ibrahim Mohamad Matar alleged that Dichter personally participated in the decision to bomb his apartment complex in Gaza City, a Palestinian territory then occupied by Israel.
The July 2002 bombing killed alleged Hamas leader Saleh Mustafah Shehadeh and 14 others, including the plaintiff's wife and children.
The State Department and the Department of Justice urged the district court to dismiss the case on immunity grounds.
The lower court and the federal appeals court in New York agreed that sovereign immunity shields Dichter from litigation over the bombing.
Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd Circuit added: "Accordingly, even if Dichter, as a former foreign official, is not categorically eligible for immunity under the [Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act] (a question we need not decide here), he is nevertheless immune from suit under common-law principles that pre-date, and survive, the enactment of that statute."
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