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The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) are liable for six attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004, a New York court has ruled.

Six attacks in and around Jerusalem killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more during the second Palestinian intifada more than 10 years ago.

The jury awarded victims of the attacks more than $218 million.

The Palestinian groups expressed dismay at the court’s decision and vowed they would appeal.

As some of the victims were American citizens, the lawsuit was filed in a US court.

Photo AP

Photo AP

After deliberating for a day, jurors ruled in favor of 10 American families who were seeking damages related to the six attacks.

The Israeli government has denied any official involvement in the lawsuit.

A joint statement by the PLO and the PNA described the charges as “baseless” and said they were disappointed by the ruling.

The victims’ families allege that internal documents show the attacks were approved by the Palestinian authorities.

“Those involved in the attacks still receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority and still get promoted in rank while in jail,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel-based Shurat HaDin Law Center, a lawyer who is representing the victims’ families.

But defense lawyer Mark Rochon told jurors that the PA and PLO did not have knowledge of the attacks before they took place.

He said the organizations could not be held liable for the actions of suicide bombers and gunmen, whom he argued acted alone.

The victims had requested more than $350 million. The US Anti-Terrorism Act could yet allow for the fine to be tripled.

France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France had long backed Palestinian ambitions for statehood and would vote yes “out of a concern for coherency”.

The Palestinians are asking the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status from permanent observer to a “non-member observer state”.

The vote is due to take place later this week.

“This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes,” Laurent Fabius told the lower house of parliament.

But he cautioned: “It’s only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately, without any preconditions, that a Palestinian state can become a reality.”

Backing international recognition of a Palestinian state was a campaign pledge made by Francois Hollande before he became France’s president earlier this year.

France – a permanent member of the UN Security Council – is the first major European country to come out in favor of the move.

Germany is expected to vote against, while the UK’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, said on Tuesday that London remained undecided.

France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week

France has confirmed its intentions to vote for Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations later this week

An upgrade in status would allow the Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates and improve their chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC), although the process would be neither automatic nor guaranteed.

If they are allowed to sign the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the Palestinians hope to take legal action in the court to challenge Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The bid follows an attempt in 2011 by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to join the UN as a full member state, which failed because of a lack of support in the Security Council.

Observers say the latest Palestinian application is likely win approval in the 193-member UN General Assembly, as it needs to only a simple majority to pass. According to the PLO, more than 130 countries already grant the Palestinians the rank of a sovereign state.

But Israel and the United States are concerned that the move is an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to secure statehood through the United Nations rather than through negotiation, as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said earlier this month that if the Palestinians, with UN non-member observer status, asked the ICC to resolve disputes with Israel, then Israel would “take unilateral steps to protect its interests”. He did not elaborate on what those measures would be.

President Mahmoud Abbas has said he does not “want any confrontations with the United States or Israel”, adding: “If we can start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the [UN] vote, we will.”

Representatives of Israel and Hamas have begun indirect talks on ceasefire deal that ended the recent violence in Gaza.

The negotiations are being led by Egyptian intermediaries in Cairo.

Hamas is expected to press for an end of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, while Israel wants arms smuggling to cease.

At least 158 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed in the eight-day offensive which Israel said it launched to stop rocket-fire from the territory.

Under the terms of the initial ceasefire, agreed on Wednesday, Israel agreed to end all hostilities and targeted killings, while Hamas agreed to stop attacks against Israel and along the Gaza border fence.

The deal also called for the “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods”, with the timing other details to be discussed “after 24 hours” of the ceasefire coming into effect.

Israeli negotiators are reported to be asking for an assurance that the smuggling of weapons under Gaza’s southern border with Egypt will end.

“Israel is proposing this, no doubt,” Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk told the AFP news agency.

“But at no stage was it part of the understanding for a ceasefire. They proposed it in the media, but not during the talks,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal has telephoned the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, to say the Islamist movement “welcomed” his bid to have Palestine recognized as a “non-member observer state” at the United Nations.

The announcement by Hamas was unexpected. Its leaders have previously dismissed the UN approach as a waste of time.

Mahmoud Abbas has said he will push for a vote on the issue at the UN General Assembly on Thursday. If it is approved – as it expected to be – it will improve the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Currently, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella group which represents most Palestinian factions and conducts negotiations with Israel, only has “permanent observer” status at the UN.

Israel and the US have threatened financial penalties if the Palestinians press ahead with the UN bid, saying the only way to achieve an independent state is through negotiations.

The body of Yasser Arafat is to be exhumed on Tuesday, Palestinian officials say.

Former Palestinian leader’s body is to undergo tests to find out whether his death in Paris in 2004 was caused by poisoning.

Yasser Arafat’s medical records say he had a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.

However, France began a murder inquiry in August after Swiss experts hired by a documentary crew found radioactive polonium-210 on Yasser Arafat’s personal effects.

His tomb, in Ramallah in the West Bank, was sealed off earlier this month.

Once the body is removed from the tomb inside the stone-clad tomb mausoleum, scientists from France, Switzerland and Russia will each take samples, former Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi told reporters.

Each team will conduct its own independent analysis of the sample, he said, and then body will be reburied the same day with military honors.

Yasser Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organization for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, fell violently ill in October 2004 at his compound.

Yasser Arafat’s body is to undergo tests to find out whether his death in Paris in 2004 was caused by poisoning

Yasser Arafat’s body is to undergo tests to find out whether his death in Paris in 2004 was caused by poisoning

Two weeks later he was flown to a French military hospital in Paris, where he died on 11 November 2004, aged 75.

His widow, Suha, objected to a post-mortem examination at the time, but later appealed to the Palestinian Authority to permit the exhumation “to reveal the truth”.

Many Palestinians continue to believe that Israel poisoned him. Israel has denied any involvement. Others allege that he had Aids.

In 2005, the New York Times obtained a copy of Yasser Arafat’s medical records, which it said showed he died of a massive hemorrhagic stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an unknown infection.

Independent experts who reviewed the records told the paper that it was highly unlikely that he had died of AIDS or had been poisoned.

A murder inquiry was launched by French prosecutors in August after an investigation by al-Jazeera TV, working with scientists at the Institute of Radiation Physics (IRA) at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, found “significant” traces of polonium-210 present in samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s personal effects, including his trademark keffiyeh headdress.

In some cases, the elevated levels were 10 times higher than those on control subjects, and most of the polonium could not have come from natural sources, the scientists said.