United States District Court, District of Columbia
KESSLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 13, 2012, ten members of the Bluth family
("Plaintiffs" or "the Bluths") filed a
Complaint alleging that the Islamic Republic of Iran, the
Iranian Ministry of Information and Security, and the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps ("Iranian Defendants")
are liable under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
("FSIA"), 28 U.S.C. § 1605A, for
Plaintiffs' physical and emotional injuries arising from
a terrorist attack by Hamas directed at a classroom full of
students studying Torah on March 7, 2002. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 10-19 [Dkt. No. 5]. According to the Complaint,
the Iranian Defendants "provided material support or
resources including cover, sanctuary, technical assistance,
explosive devices, and training" to the terrorists.
February 24, 2015, the Clerk of the Court declared the
Iranian Defendants to be in default because they had never
responded to the Complaint. In order to obtain a default
judgment under FSIA, plaintiffs must establish their claim or
right to relief by evidence that is satisfactory to the
Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e). As explained
herein, Plaintiffs have met this standard. Accordingly, the
Court will grant their Motion for Default Judgment.
FINDINGS OF FACT
is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist group that formed in 1987 as
a derivative of the Palestinian branch of the Egypt-based
Muslim Brotherhood. Declaration of Dr. Matthew
Levitt ("Levitt Decl.") at 17 [Dkt. No.
56-2]. Known.as Harakat al-Muqawamah al-lslamiyya in
Arabic, (translated as "The Islamic Resistance
Movement") ("Am. Compl.") [Dkt. No. 5 ¶
24], Hamas aims to destroy Israel and create an Islamic
Palestinian state in its place. Levitt Decl. at 17;
Declaration of Dr. Patrick Clawson ("Clawson Decl.")
at 10 [Dkt. No. 56-1] .
also fights against secularization and Westernization of Arab
society and aims to be recognized internationally as the only
representative entity of the Palestinian people. Levitt Decl.
at 17. Hamas engages in social welfare and political
activity, as well as guerilla and terrorist attacks to
achieve its goals. Id. Hamas emphasizes violent
jihad,  which is a "religiously sanctioned
resistance against perceived enemies of Islam."
Id. at 17-18.
Hamas, the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades form the military
wing that carries out acts of violence against both military
and civilian targets, including suicide as well as other
types of bombings, use of Qassam rockets,  mortar fire, and
shootings. Levitt Decl. at 18. In the 2003 Patterns of
Global Terrorism, the United States Department
of State reported that Hamas carried out more than 150
attacks globally, including one of the most deadly attacks in
2003. Levitt Decl. at 15; see Pis.' Ex. 7 [Dkt.
No. 58-7] .
March 2004, . Hamas had carried out 425 terrorist attacks
since its creation; it had killed approximately 377 people
and wounded 2, 076. Levitt Decl. at 18; Pis.' Ex. 15
[Dkt. No. 58-15]. One element of the group's strategy is
to terrorize and then pressure leaders to give concessions to
Hamas to stop the violence. Levitt Decl. at 19. The
"social" wing of Hamas indoctrinates, recruits, and
supplies funding for the military wing. Am. Compl. ¶ 27.
1995, the United States Government designated Hamas as a
"Specially Designated Terrorist" entity pursuant to
the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Am. Compl.
¶ 25 (citing 50 U.S.C.A. §§ 1701, 1702; Exec.
Order No. 12947, 60 Fed. Reg. 5079 (Jan. 23, 1995)). Only two
years later, Hamas was identified and labeled as a
"Foreign Terrorist Organization, " pursuant to 8
U.S.C. § 1189. Am. Compl. ¶ 26. It is unlawful to
provide material support and resources, including currency or
monetary instruments, financial services, personnel,
transportation, and other provisions to any components of a
Foreign Terrorist Organization. Id.; see 18
U.S.C.A. §§ 2339A, 2339B.
press outlets, including the al Qassam website, which is the
official English language website of Hamas' military and
terrorist wing's "information office, " track
Hamas' acts. Levitt Decl. at 21. Confirmed Hamas attacks
include high-population areas such as education centers,
cafes and restaurants, command bases, and buses, all of which
are bound to injure or kill large groups of people at any
given time. Id. at 21-22. Hamas' pattern of
activity meets the criteria for "terrorism, " which
is defined as "premeditated, politically motivated
violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by
subnational groups or clandestine agents." 22 U.S.C.A.
§ 2656f(d)(2); see 8 U.S.C. § 118 9(a)(1)(B).
Iran as a State Sponsor of Terrorism
"state sponsor of terrorism" refers to a country
whose government the United States Secretary of State has
determined, for purposes of Section 6(j) of the Export
Administration Act of 1979, (50 U.S.C. App. § 2405 (j)),
Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1979, (22
U.S.C. § 2371), Section 40 of the Arms Export Control
Act, (22 U.S.C. § 2780), or any other provision of law,
"is a government that has repeatedly provided support
for acts of international terrorism, " 28 U.S.C.A.
§ 1605A(h)(6); see also "Terrorist Groups,
" U.S. Department of State,
government of the Islamic Republic of Iran ("Iran")
has been identified as a state sponsor of terrorism since
January 19, 1984. Moradi v. Islamic Republic of
Iran, 77 F.Supp.3d 57, 65 fn. 7 (D.D.C. 2015) (citations
omitted); see generally Levitt Decl.; Clawson Decl.
in the early 1990's, Iran and Hamas developed a close
relationship. Clawson Decl. at 10. Iran was driven by its
desire to disrupt the Middle East peace process in the late
1990's and relied on terrorist activities to do so,
strongly and publicly encouraging such activities from Hamas.
Id. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
("IRGC") and Iran's Ministry of Information and
Security ("MOIS") made terrorism training available
to Hamas members as well as other terrorist groups.
Id. at 7. Iran has provided financial support as
well as tactical training and planning support to Hamas.
Id. at 8-10 (citing the Patterns of Global
Terrorism annual reports by the U.S. Department of State
pursuant to 22 U.S.C. § 2656f (a)). Moreover, Iran
employs a performance-based approach to calculate its level
of funding for a terrorist group and rewards groups like
Hamas for successful attacks. Levitt Decl. at 7 (citing
Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 184 F.Supp.2d
13, 19 (D.D.C. 2002)).
1997, during a televised interview of Hassan Salameh, a Hamas
member, it was publicly revealed that Hamas members flew to
and trained in Iran and received support from Iran. Clawson
Decl. at 10. In 2003, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
estimated that Iran provided Hamas with approximately $3
million per year. Id. at 11. That same year,
estimates of Hamas' budget ranged anywhere from $30
million to $90 million per year. Levitt Decl. at 13. Of that
amount, according to FBI testimony, an estimated $25 million
to $30 million per year came from foreign funding.
Id. Monetary funding supports the costs of
propaganda, terror activities, social welfare (including
payments to the families of suicide bombers), bribes,
intelligence payments, long-term infrastructure, and safe
houses. Id. at 12-13.
relationship between Hamas and Iran cooled after 2003,
following a vigorous Israeli campaign against Hamas. Clawson
Decl. at 11. However, Hamas and Iran re-developed their
relationship in 2006 when Hamas gained power in the
Palestinian elections and took control of the Gaza strip in
2007. Id. In the years following, the relationship
between Hamas and Iran has ' been continuously recognized
in studies prepared by the United States Government and other
organizations. Levitt Decl. at 16-17; Clawson Decl. at 11
(citing academic scholarship, U.S. Department of Defense
Report, Institute for Peace study, Human Rights Watch Report,
and Congressional Research Service work that have traced the
existing relationship between Iran and Hamas up until 2014).
March 7, 2002 Attack on Atzmona
Thursday, March 7, 2002, a yeshiva in Atzmona, located in the
Gaza Strip was attacked. Transcript of Evidentiary Hearing
("Tr.") at 10, 79 [Dkt. No. 60]. Nethaniel Chaim
Bluth ("Nethaniel, " "Plaintiff") was a
student at the yeshiva on the night of the attack. Nethaniel
was born in Jerusalem, Israel and lived in Israel for most of
his life. Id. at 19-20; Pis.' Ex. 33 [Dkt. No.
59-33]. He grew up in a small religious settlement in Israel,
where his mother resided until she passed away approximately
one year ago and where his father continues to reside. Tr. at
18, 21. For the entirety of his life, Nethaniel has been a
dual citizen of Israel and the United States, because his
parents are American citizens. Id. at 20.
high school graduation, Nethaniel chose to attend the yeshiva
in Atzmona before joining the Israeli army to complete
Israel's mandatory service requirement. Id. at
21-22. Two of Nethaniel's brothers had attended the same
yeshiva before him. Id. at 24, 72. By the time of
the attack, Nathaniel had been studying in Atzmona for half a
year. Id. at 61-62. He had recently decided to
extend his original year-long stay an additional six months
because he enjoyed his studies and the community.
Id. at 24-25.
like the other 120 students, slept, ate, and studied every
day at the yeshiva. Id. at 25, 32. Despite being
away from the family home, Nethaniel stayed in close contact
with his parents and seven siblings. Id. at 18-19,
73. He went home frequently, as did his siblings, typically
on a weekly basis. Id. at 33. The family home was
approximately a two-hour drive from the yeshiva. Id.
at 29. Six of the eight Bluth children, including Nethaniel,
used the family home in Neve Tzuf as their permanent
residence. Id. at 64, 85-86; Deposition of Isaac
Menahem Bluth ("Isaac Depo.") at 6-7 [Dkt. No.
night of March 7, 2002, there were approximately thirty
students in Nethaniel's classroom. Tr. at 36. Students
generally studied late on Thursday nights because they either
went home for Sabbath on Fridays or used the day as a
personal "free day." Id. at 34-35. During
a lecture at approximately 11:30pm, Nethaniel and the other
students heard the sounds of gunfire and grenade explosions.
Plaintiffs' Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of
Law in Support of their Motion for Default Judgment
("Statement of Facts") at 7 [Dkt. No. 59]; Tr. at
41. The rabbi in the classroom instructed a student to turn
off the lights and everyone in the classroom remained silent
and waited. Tr. at 37.
moved towards the glass door and window to see what was
causing the noise. Id. at 37-38. When Nethaniel
looked out, he saw his friend Asher Marcus and a rabbi who
was on duty as a guard that evening sitting in a Jeep
talking. Id. Upon more explosions and shooting,
students began to scream and Bluth saw Asher and the rabbi
running towards one room, and then towards Nethaniel's
classroom. Id. at 39. Nethaniel described Asher as
terrified and white in the face. Id. Nethaniel held
the classroom door open for Asher, and as he came running
through the doorway, Asher was shot and fell on Nethaniel,
who caught him. Id. at 39, 43. At the same time,
Nethaniel saw the attacker come out from between two other
buildings, approximately thirty feet from his
classroom. Id. at 40-41. The attacker then
started shooting into Nethaniel's classroom as he walked
towards the building. Id. at 40, 42.
Asher on top of him, Nethaniel laid on the floor with his
hands on his head, unable to move. Id. at 43.
Nethaniel warned his classmates that the attacker was
approaching the classroom. Id. at 40. He saw that
the attacker was wearing a black vest filled with ammunition
and grenades. Id. at 41. A guard driving in a car
tried to run over the attacker to stop him, but was unable
to, because of the sand surrounding his car. Id. at
45. No one in the classroom was armed the night of the
attack, id. at 41, and so each person simply waited
and prayed, id. at 43.
the shots into Nethaniel's classroom, the attacker threw
two grenades into the classroom through a window.
Id. at 45. The first grenade exploded approximately
three meters from Bluth's face. Am. Compl. ¶ 64.
Nethaniel felt blood going down his face and heard more
screaming and praying. Tr. at 46. There was a second grenade
and explosion. Id. Following the second explosion,
the attacker moved elsewhere and people started getting up
and taking care of the wounded. Id. at 46-47.
Nethaniel's friend helped stop the bleeding on
Nethaniel's head because Nethaniel could feel that
something had happened to his own hands. Id. at 47.
soldiers killed the attacker following a twenty-minute gun
battle. Statement of Facts at 7. At about the time the
attacker was killed, ambulances and soldiers arrived at the
area and Nethaniel was taken outside. Id.; Tr. at
47. By the end, five people were killed and approximately
twenty-three others were injured. Levitt Decl. at 20 (citing
news reports and Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Of the
five deaths, two were Nethaniel's close friends, Asher
and Eran Picard. Statement of Facts at 7. Nethaniel saw the
bodies of his two dead friends, as well as other injured
friends laid out on the grass when he was brought outside.
Tr. at 47.
National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses
to Terrorism ("START") at the University of
Maryland identified the attacker as Mohammad
Farahat. Levitt Decl. at 20 (citing Incident
Summary, 03/07/2002, Global Terrorism Database, National
Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Reponses to
px?gtdid=200203070002); Pis.' Ex. 20 [Dkt. No. 58-20].
START also confirmed in its Global Terrorism Database that a
Hamas representative claimed responsibility for the Atzmona
attack. Id. (citing Incident Summary,
03/07/2002). Major media outlets, including BBC, The
Guardian, and the al Qassam website, also reported that Hamas
claimed the attack as its own. Levitt Decl. at 19, 21;
Pis.' Exs. 17-18, 22 [Dkt. No. 58-17, -18, -22]. It was
reported that Farahat trained for two days prior to the
operation. Levitt Decl. at 21 (citing a translation of Al
Sharq Al Awsat, An Interview with the Mother of a Suicide
Bomber, the Middle East Media Research Institute,
Special Dispatch No. 391 (June 19, 2002),
following suggests, Farahat had deep ties with Hamas. Levitt
Decl. at 20. When Farahat was seven years old, a former head
of the Hamas military wing took refuge from the authorities
in Farahat's home for fourteen months and was ultimately
killed there. Id. (citing An Interview with the
Mother of a Suicide i Bomber). A video of
Farahat's mother posted on the al Qassam website prior to
the attack captured how proud she was to sacrifice her son
Farahat to Allah. Pis.' Ex. 27 [Dkt. No. 58-27].
kept in contact with his mother after he arrived in Atzmona
and Hamas operatives notified her when Farahat penetrated the
settlement security fence. Levitt Decl. at 21 (citing
Holy Land 2006 Gaza Um Nadal). Following
the attack, Farahat's mother emphasized the Atzmona
attack and glorified her son. See, e.g., Pis.'
Ex. 22 [Dkt. No. 58-23]. She praised Farahat publicly as the
model martyr and even used the security fence taken from
Atzmona as a chicken-wire fence next to her home. Levitt
Decl. at 21 (citing Mother of Martyrs in Parliament for
Hamas, Deutsche Presses-Agentur, (Jan. 31, 2006),
also Pis.' Ex. 14 [Dkt. No. 58-14]. Visible to
visitors, the wall near the fence read: "Through this
Mohammad got into the settlement." Levitt Decl. at 21
(citing Mother of Martyrs in Parliament for Hamas).
In 2006, Farahat's mother won a seat in the Palestinian
Legislative Council on the Hamas ticket. Pis.' Ex. 23
[Dkt. No. 58-23].
Nethaniel Bluth's Injuries
the attack, Nethaniel was identified as one of the students
who was most critically injured. Tr. at 89; Statement of
Facts at 7. He was covered in blood, had burns over much of
his body, and had injuries to his head, face, and chest.
Statement of Facts at 8. Nethaniel testified that at that
time he could not feel his hands. Tr. at 47. The doctor who
bandaged Nethaniel's forehead and hands at the scene of
the attack believed that there was a bullet entry wound in
Nethaniel's sternum, right above his heart. Id.
at 48; Statement of Facts at 7. It remains unclear whether
Nethaniel was hit by a bullet or shrapnel. An exit wound was
not readily identified at that time, causing serious concern,
because it may have been lodged in his body. Tr. at 44.
Nethaniel was put on a stretcher and was one of two people
transported by helicopter from Atzmona to Tel Hashomer
Hospital. Id. at 49.
arriving at the hospital, Nethaniel was conscious, extremely
anxious, and disoriented. Statement of Facts at 9. Nethaniel
testified that he was still in shock and stressed from seeing
his friends dead on the grass. Tr. at 47. As he was moved
through the emergency room for tests, he briefly passed by
several members of his family. Id. at 51;
see Am. Compl. ¶¶ 66, 68-70, 73. Following
the tests, Nethaniel went into multiple surgeries for his
ears, the embedded shrapnel, and bullet wound. Tr. at 52.
Nethaniel suffered forehead and hand injuries from the first
grenade explosion. Id. at 45; Statement of Facts at
7. Pieces of the grenade were embedded in his chest area and
hand. Tr. at 45.
right side of Nethaniel's face was severely'cut from
the grenade explosion and his head wound was so deep that the
bone was visible. Id. He also had open wounds on his
arms, forehead, and chest. Id. at 92. Many of the
wounds required stitches. Id. Nethaniel needed
plastic surgery for his face and head due to the blast and
shrapnel from the grenade. Deposition of Joseph Bluth at 14
[Dkt. No. 58-46]. In addition, the plastic surgeon had to
reattach part of his scalp to his skull. Id. at 15.
continued to be hospitalized for several days following the
operations. Tr. at 52. The surgeon at Tel Hashomer
Hospital concluded that, while there was an indentation in
Nethaniel's chest from an object, there was no damage to
his vital organs. Id. at 90. The surgeon believed
that the fragment -whether it was a bullet or part of a
grenade - hit Nethaniel's sternum and deflected out of
his body. Id.
hearing was significantly impaired by the grenade explosion.
Id. at 46. While one eardrum was dislodged (it
eventually re-lodged), the other was completely blown out.
Id. at 92. When he first took a hearing test
following his surgeries, he could not hear anything,
id. at 52-53, and broke down in tears when he
realized that he could not hear. Id.; Statement of
Facts at 9. He continues to have issues with his hearing and
has complete hearing loss in one ear. Tr. at 57; Statement of
Facts at 9.
to the attack, Nethaniel had no medical issues, major
surgeries, history of depression, anxiety, or other mental
health concerns. Tr. at 32-33; Statement of Facts at 8. As a
result of the attack, he suffered from high levels of fear,
anxiety, paranoia, and extreme emotional fluctuations.
See Statement of Facts at 10-11. Nethaniel was
traumatized from seeing his close friends lying bloody on the
ground and cried when he later learned that they had died.
Tr. at 47-48. Immediately following the attack, his speech
was affected and he stuttered for a period of time.
Id. at 91-92. Nethaniel was scared of noises and
paranoid about people entering his room at the hospital.
Statement of Facts at 10. He testified that he was afraid to
be alone and needed someone near him at all times. Tr. at 53,
his discharge from the hospital, Nethaniel returned to the
family's home in Neve Tzuf. Id. at 94. Nethaniel
continued to go back to the hospital for outpatient treatment
in the audio ward for his hearing. Id. He needed
someone with him for everyday activities, such as walking,
urinating, and showering. Statement of Facts at 10. His
father testified that Nethaniel was hesitant and extra
cautious during that period. Tr. at 94. Nethaniel testified
that he was afraid of the dark and, the minute the day ended
and the sun went down, he would close all the curtains and
windows, and lock the doors. Id. at 53. Nethaniel
suffered from headaches and terrible nightmares, which
started at the hospital and continued frequently in the
period immediately after the attack. Id. at 57-58;
Statement of Facts at 9-10. Without pills or the comfort of
his parents, Nethaniel struggled to fall sleep. Tr. at 53.
The constant ringing and physical pain in Nethaniel's
ears continued for weeks following the attack. Statement of
Facts at 9.
returning home from the hospital, Nethaniel spent a few days
at home and then went back to visit the yeshiva. Tr. at 55.
He testified that it was important for him to return as soon
as he could to understand what . had happened. Id.
Moreover, it was rehabilitative. Id. at 96. When
Nethaniel eventually returned to study at the yeshiva, he
struggled with his fear of loud noises. Id. at 58.
Once during a thunderstorm, the lights went out and the
darkness and loud noises brought him back to the night of the
attack, the moments when he waited for the attacker's
bullet on the night of the attack, and he started crying.
Id. While the students were moved to and slept in
more protected rooms than before the attack, Nethaniel still
needed someone with him at all times. Id. at 56. He
even showered with the door open because he was afraid to be
alone. Id. at 53.
finishing the rest of his time at the yeshiva, Nethaniel
entered the army in March 2003. Id. at 61. Upon
entering, Nethaniel's placement was affected by his
injuries. Id. at 61-62. Nethaniel testified that
most of his injuries were still present when he joined the
army and therefore, with doctors' notes, the army had to
find a job that he could do despite his injuries.
Id. at 61. Nethaniel served in the army for five and
a half years, id. at 56, and described his time with
the army as helping him gain a sense of self-confidence in
his ability to protect himself and friends. Id.
Nethaniel relies on a firearm to feel safe and always carries
one with him. See Statement of Facts at 10-11.
years later, Nethaniel's injuries from Atzmona continue
to affect both his personal life and career. Tr. at 57; Am.
Compl. ¶ 64. His hearing is permanently impaired and he
is unable to hear his wife and children or his co-workers
when they call him from another room. Tr. at 57. He continues
to suffer from tinnitus. PI. Compl. ¶ 10. Nethaniel has
substantial permanent scarring on his face, head, chest, and
arms. Statement of Facts at 9; Tr. at 45-46. The shrapnel
left in Nethaniel's hands and face continue to cause him
significant pain and affect his bones, especially in cold
weather or with a change in weather. Tr. at 46, 59.
continues to struggle with flashbacks to the night of the
attack when he sees his scars and when he sees the parents of
the students who were killed. Id. at 57. He
continues to feel guilt and remorse for the death of his two
close friends who were by his side throughout the attack.
Statement of Facts at 11. He has nightmares from time to time
and frequently wakes up at night to lock all the windows.
Id. at 10-11; Tr. at 58. Nethaniel continues to
struggle with his fear of the dark and his paranoia of loud
noises or explosion-like sounds. Tr. at 53-54, 58.
states that he no longer has the same "ability to enjoy
life in a carefree way" as he did prior to the attack
and is constantly alert. Statement of Facts ¶ 11. Even
today, the Bluth family is careful about engaging in certain
conversations with Nethaniel and how they act around him.
Id. His father testified that Nethaniel's
comedic personality and sense of self-confidence changed
after the attack. Statement of Facts at 10; Tr. at 71.