USA blames former Israeli security chief for bomb deaths in Gaza City

A Manhattan lawsuit puts the sole blame for a July 2002 bombing that killed 15 people in an apartment building in Gaza City on a former director of Israel's General Security Service. Israel on Friday denounced the lawsuit as "cynical manipulation" by extremists. The lawsuit, unsealed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, seeks class action status for survivors of the bombing in the al-Daraj neighborhood and representatives or family members of those who were killed. Named as the sole defendant of the lawsuit is former GSS director Avraham Dichter.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for what it calls a "targeted assassination" in which the Israeli Air Force dropped a 2,205-pound (990-kilogram) bomb on an apartment building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The bombing killed Saleh Mustafa Shehadeh, purportedly a top Hamas operative wanted for allegedly masterminding suicide bombings, on an upper floor of the building, partially destroyed nine other buildings and damaged 21 more, the lawsuit said. Eight of the 15 killed were children, and another 150 people were injured, the lawsuit said.

"We see this as a cynical manipulation of the courts by groups with extremist agendas," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The plaintiffs seek to hold Dichter responsible under customary international law and the Torture Victim Protection Act. They say the court would have jurisdiction for human rights violations and war crimes under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, a law that has been used by Holocaust survivors and relatives of people killed or tortured under despotic regimes from South America to the Philippines.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, says the bombing occurred as part of a series of targeted attacks on suspected terrorists that has killed 327 people and at least 174 non-targeted bystanders, including at least 47 children, since September 2000.

The lawsuit says Dichter had "developed, implemented and escalated the practice of targeted killings." A spokeswoman for the Center for Constitutional Rights said Dichter was served with the lawsuit during a benefit Wednesday in New York City, reports the AP. N.U.

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