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Israel declares shooting of American an "act of war"

Aug. 18, 2009 5:51 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 20, 2009 7:29 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel has declared the shooting of unarmed American demonstrator Tristan Anderson in the West Bank to be an “act of war” in a bid to avoid compensating his family.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense sent a letter containing this declaration to the Anderson family’s lawyers, according to attorney Leah Tsemel who is perusing a civil suit against the Israeli government.

Anderson was critically injured on 13 March 2009 when Israeli soldiers shot him in the forehead with a high velocity tear gas canister during a demonstration against the separation wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. He remains unconscious in Tel Aviv’s Tel Hashomer Hospital, where he recently underwent another surgery to reattach part of his scull that was removed during life-saving surgery five months ago. Prospects for his recovery remain unclear.

Tsemel, the civil suit attorney, told Ma’an that the “act of war” designation automatically releases the government from paying compensation under a recently-amended tort law. Israel makes this designation “all the time,” in tort cases involving Palestinian victims, she said.

She also said the Andersons’ lawyers would “exhaust all possibilities in Israeli courts,” and in international courts if necessary, to hold the government accountable. A court date has not yet been set.

Phone calls to the Israeli Ministry of Defense seeking comment were not returned.

Tsemel also reiterated that overwhelming evidence shows that Anderson was not a combatant and presented no threat to the Israeli soldiers. In an eventual court proceeding, she said, Anderson’s lawyers would present eyewitnesses, videotape, a medical report, and even the Israeli soldier’s own reports to prove this.

“If a process by which unarmed civilian demonstration is classified by Israel as an ‘act of war,’ then clearly Israel admits that it is at war with civilians,” said Attorney Michael Sfard, who is handling the criminal side of the Anderson case, in a statement circulated by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

On the criminal side of the case, ISM said Israeli police have completed their criminal investigation and passed the file to the district attorney of the Central District of the Israeli prosecutors’ offices. Sfard, is awaiting their decision.

Anderson was shot at a distance of 60 meters while standing with a group of Palestinians and international activists, hours after the demonstration had been dispersed from the construction site of the Wall.
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