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The PA on Trial

Samara Greenberg

The family of an American contractor killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003 after a roadside bomb exploded can sue the Palestinian Authority (PA), a U.S. appeals court ruled on Friday, overturning a ruling last year in favor of the PA. Mark Parsons and two colleagues were killed in the Strip in 2003, which at that time was under the authority of the PA, while working as security guards protecting a U.S. State Department convoy.

According to the lawsuit – filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991, which prohibits the Palestinian government from materially supporting terrorists – PA security forces in Gaza turned a blind eye to terrorists laying the bomb and then notified those terrorists when the American convoy approached the site. Documents submitted to the court reveal that the PA questioned a man, Amer Qarmout, who admitted to supervising the digging of a hole to plant a roadside bomb in the same area. Qarmout told PA interrogators that he “introduced himself to [PA] soldiers and asked them to turn their attention away from the men who were planting the device.” The PA failed to bring anyone to trial after the incident.

Mark Parsons

In May, the FBI released 124 pages of documents regarding the case, which show that Washington moved quickly to investigate the crime but the PA failed to secure the scene, which allowed for the contamination of evidence. Palestinians also reportedly threw rocks at U.S. investigators, who were said to have feared for their lives while conducting the investigation.

The case, though years old, highlights an important aspect of U.S.-PA relations. While PA leaders publicly praise their relations with Washington and denounce terrorism, many also condone it privately. This case makes clear that the PA should be held to account for not only its actions, but inaction as well.