Victims of attacks in Israel sue Lebanese banks

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Victims of bombings and rocket attacks in Israel sued several Lebanese banks on Monday for helping fund Hezbollah militants who the lawsuit said orchestrated the attacks.

Israelis survey a damaged building, following a Katyusha-style rocket attack in the northern Israeli town of Safed, July 13, 2006. REUTERS/Yonathan Weitzman

The lawsuit seeks damages from the banks for more than 50 Israeli citizens injured or relatives of those killed by missile attacks fired from Lebanon’s southern border at Israeli targets during July and August, 2006, the suit said.

It said the banks provided services to the Islamic Resistance Support Organization (IRSO), which the lawsuit accused of raising funds for terrorist activities for Hezbollah as well as dealing with various U.S. banks.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, said the Lebanese banks processed funds and cleared U.S. dollars for the IRSO’s benefit through the United States and that the IRSO’s activities had violated international as well as U.S. federal and state laws.

Through dealing with the IRSO, the banks “provided Hezbollah with regular, systematic and unfettered access to U.S. currency, thus enabling Hezbollah to rapidly access funds to purchase missiles and weapons that could terrorize civilians.”

Attacks cited in the suit include two from 2006 -- a July 13 missile attack on the Israeli city of Safed and a July 16 missile that struck the Haifa Train Depot.

The named banks, including Lebanon’s Bank of Beirut, Fransabank, BLC Bank, Banque Libano-Francaise, Middle East Africa Bank, violated the Alien Tort Claims Act, the suit said.

It said Fransabank, BLC Bank and the Bank of Beirut also provided services to Lebanon’s television network al-Manar.

The U.S. government considers Hezbollah and al-Manar terrorist organizations.

Representatives for the banks could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by David Wiessler