JERUSALEM (JTA) — The families of five of the students killed in the 2008 terrorist attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem have filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the Bank of China for making money transfers to Hamas.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York State court accuses the bank of making several millions of dollars in wire transfers for the terrorist organization beginning in 2003.
"The banking giant knowingly assisted the Islamic group to carry out this Jerusalem attack with the full approval of the Chinese government," attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, who is representing the families, said in a statement.
Eight high school and seminary students were killed and 15 were injured in March 2008 when a Palestinian man from eastern Jerusalem entered the yeshiva grounds and opened fire.
The transfers were initiated by the Hamas leadership in Iran and Syria, processed through Bank of China branches in the United States and sent on to a Bank of China account in China operated by a senior terrorist, according to Shurat HaDin, which said the funds went to Hamas and other West Bank and Gaza terror groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad.
"Usually, U.S. citizens have the right to file lawsuits against those who sponsor and execute terror. In this suit, we were able to make use of laws allowing non-Americans to also sue in U.S. courts in the case of terrorism," Darshan-Leitner said.
The United States has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization since 1997 and as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” since 2001. As such, Hamas is subject to strict economic sanctions intended to prevent it from conducting banking activities that help finance its attacks.