Ungar v. Palestinian Authority

On June 9, 1996, two Palestinian gunmen murdered Yaron and Efrat Ungar as they drove on a road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Palestinian gunmen fired twenty bullets from their Mitsubishi van into the couple’s car. Although the bullets missed the couple’s one year-old son, who was in a car seat in the back, both Yaron and Efrat were killed. The attack was carried out by a Palestinian militant cell, belonging to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, from the West Bank village of Surif.

The Ungars estate sued the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Islamic group Hamas in March 2000 at the District Court of Rhode Island under the Antiterrorism Act (ATA) for wrongful death due to the defendants’ encouragement of terrorism.

In January 2004, the estate won a judgment against Hamas in the Providence Federal Court for the Ungar murders and ordered Hamas to pay the families of the Ungars $116 million. In July of that year, the estate obtained a default judgment against the PNA and the PLO in the same case, after the court held the defendants were not entitled to sovereign immunity because they did not meet the formal criteria for statehood.

Six years later, in 2010, the appeals court overturned the ruling based on the district court’s erroneous application of the standards for exceptional circumstances allowing for the overturning of a default judgment. The case was sent back to the District Court to allow the PLO and the PNA to present their side.

In February 2011, the Ungar estate obtained a confidential settlement and ended the case.


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