Victims of Hamas attack sue Iran, Syria, North Korea in U.S. court

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt speaks duirng the Anti-Defamation League's "Never is Now" summit in New York

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - More than 100 victims and relatives of victims of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants in Israel sued Iran, Syria and North Korea on Monday, accusing the countries of providing Hamas support and demanding at least $4 billion in damages.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., by the Anti-Defamation League is the largest case against foreign countries in connection with the attack, and the first backed by a Jewish organization, the ADL said in a press release.

It accuses the three countries of providing financial, military and tactical support to Hamas. The U.S. government has designed Iran, Syria and North Korea state sponsors of terrorism.

More than 1,200 people were killed in the attack and 250 others were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. The plaintiffs in the case include U.S. citizens injured on Oct. 7, as well as relatives and the estates of victims killed in the attack.

Israel's offensive in Gaza in response has killed nearly 38,000 people, according to Gazan health officials, and left the enclave in ruins.

"Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of antisemitism and terror – along with Syria and North Korea, they must be held responsible for their roles in the largest antisemitic attack since the Holocaust," ADL Chief Executive Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

Iran already faced several similar lawsuits in connection with the Oct. 7 attack.

The Iran, North Korea and Syria missions to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It is common for countries accused of state-sponsored terrorism to ignore lawsuits in the U.S. and not to honor judgments against them in U.S. courts.

If the defendants are found liable, the plaintiffs hope to tap the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which Congress created in 2015 to compensate individuals who have won judgments against state sponsors of terrorism.

But the fund has run low, prompting several members of Congress to introduce legislation in May that would enhance funding and guarantee annual payments to victims.

Monday's lawsuit seeks at least $1 billion of compensatory damages and $3 billion of punitive damages.

"While nothing will ever undo the unbearable pain Hamas caused our family or the brutal losses we've suffered, we hope this case will bring some sense of justice," plaintiff Nahar Neta, whose American-born mother Adrienne Neta was killed on Oct. 7, said in a statement.

The law firm of Crowell & Moring also represents the plaintiffs.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)