“We have lost so many people, but there are still many more who are living, and we owe it to them to do everything possible to stop this genocide. I have done everything in my power: I have participated in protests, sit-ins, wrote letters to my representatives, civil disobedience. Now I am asking the courts to end this ongoing genocide.” – Mohammad Herzallah, Plaintiff in Defense for Children International – Palestine v. Biden
On November 13, Palestinian human rights organizations and Palestinians in Gaza and the U.S. filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin for their failure to prevent and complicity in Israel’s unfolding genocide against them, their families, and the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. Find out more about the lawsuit on the Defense for Children International — Palestine v. Biden case page.
Defense for Children International — Palestine (DCIP) is an independent NGO that is dedicated to defending the rights of Palestinian children. DCIP is based in Ramallah, with offices and staff throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Gaza Strip. Since it was founded in 1991, DCIP has investigated, documented, and exposed grave human rights violations against children; provided legal services to children in urgent need; held Israeli and Palestinian authorities accountable to universal human rights principles; and advocated at the international and national levels to advance access to justice and protection for children.
Al-Haq is an independent Palestinian human rights organization based in Ramallah, West Bank. Established in 1979 to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), the organization has special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable
Both organizations have been significantly affected by the intense and relentless nature of the hostilities. In addition to being subjected to indiscriminate bombardment and displacement, which have damaged property and threatened the lives and well-being of staff (and their family members), both DCIP and Al-Haq have had to divert significant resources and capacity away from their core programs and mission in order to provide emergency response.
Individual Plaintiffs — Palestinians in Gaza & U.S.
Three of the Palestinian plaintiffs are residing with surviving family members in Gaza, where they have been subjected to a suffocating siege, coupled with Israeli bombardment that has killed family members. They fear for their lives and the safety of their families. All have been displaced several times in the last few months. They are joined in the lawsuit by U.S. citizens and current residents of the U.S., whose families in Gaza have been subjected to repeated Israeli bombardment by air, land, and sea, resulting in the collective killing of over 100 relatives. Their families, like the Gaza-based plaintiffs, remain precariously vulnerable to Israel’s continued direct attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, bombardment, and continued withholding of critical life supporting necessities of water, fuel, and electricity, as well as intermittent access to communication.
Note: the below facts were accurate as of the filing of the complaint on November 13. It is likely that the death toll and destruction these individuals and their families have had to endure has increased.
Ahmed Abu Artema is a Palestinian writer, a poet and a peace activist. Mr. Abu Artema’s family are refugees in Gaza; his grandfather is from Ramla, in the center of what is now Israel. Mr. Abu Artema and his family live in the area that Israeli authorities instructed civilians from the north to go to for safety. On October 24, 2023, Mr. Abu Artema was in the living room at his father’s house with three of his four children and several other relatives when an Israeli airstrike hit their home. His 12-year-old son, Abdallah, was killed by the blast. Ahmed and two of his children Mohammad, 11, and Batool, 8, suffered second degree burns. Other relatives, ranging from 8 to 85 years old, have died. His three sisters and remaining relatives were also injured, one of them critically.
Dr. Omar Al-Najjar is a 24-year-old intern physician in Gaza. He was born and raised in Khuza’a, a border village east of Khan Yunis City. His family are refugees from 1948 who fled to and settled in Gaza. On October 8, 2023, Dr. Al-Najjar, together with his parents and siblings, left his family home in Khuza’a in response to artillery shelling and direct threats from the Israeli military. His family home was later partially destroyed. Just two days later, on October 10, Israeli bombing killed five members of his extended family. Dr. Al-Najjar started working at the Nasser Medical Complex 24 hours a day, working under extreme conditions, hearing constant bombings nearby, treating mostly women and children, seeing severe bodily injuries caused by Israeli bombings. In December, he was displaced to Rafah, where he began working at another hospital. He has witnessed at least two medical colleagues and many of their family members die as a result of injuries.
Mohammed Ahmed Abu Rokbeh is a Palestinian born in Jabalia, Gaza, and is a field researcher at Defense for Children International – Palestine. He lives in the Tal Al-Zaatar neighborhood, east of Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip. Over the last few months, Mr. Abu Rokbeh, his wife, and four children have been forced to move several times, seeking refuge from place to place, sometimes multiple times in a single day. His family is limited to one meal a day and has limited access to drinking water. On November 8, an Israeli strike killed ten members of Mr. Abu Rokbeh’s family. He does not have reliable access to the phone or internet, and does not know if his home is still standing.
Laila Elhaddad is a Palestinian-American and a resident of Maryland. Ms. Elhaddad is a journalist, policy analyst, and an award-winning author. She fears for the lives of her extended family who live in Gaza City and Khan Yunis. After they were unable to flee to southern Gaza as instructed by the Israeli military, her cousins wrote to her on October 13, “We have decided to stay in Gaza City and die in dignity.” On November 11, they wrote to her that they have run out of drinking water and cannot safely leave to find any. On November 2, 2023, an Israeli strike killed Ms. Elhaddad’s aunt, three adult cousins and her cousin’s wife, and critically injured another cousin, while they were in their home in Gaza City.
Waeil Elbhassi is a Palestinian-American who lives in California. Mr. Elbhassi has relatives and extended family in Gaza, primarily in Deir El Balah and Khan Yunis. On October 12, an Israeli airstrike killed his cousin Mohamed, Mohamed’s son Hamdan, 33, and Hamdan’s 1-year-old daughter, Nour. They were standing near their home in the central Gaza Strip. The same strike killed 14 members of their neighbor’s family. On October 19, his cousin’s son Samer, 26, was killed during an airstrike on the mosque where he was praying. Samer’s body is still under the rubble.
Mohammad Herzallah is a Palestinian-American and resident of California. Since the beginning of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, Israel has killed seven of his extended family members, including a 4 year old. Mr. Herzallah is in regular communication with his extended family, including his young niece. She sent him frequent videos on WhatsApp to let him know she is still alive, and to urge him to try to do something to stop the genocide against her people. She had to flee her family home in the north of Gaza toward the south and informed him that she is no longer able to send him video messages because the host family is fearful of retaliation, as individuals who post on social media are believed to be targeted by Israeli airstrikes.
Basim Elkarra is a Palestinian-American and lives in California. Since the beginning of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, Israel has killed more than 60 members of his extended family. Mr. Elkarra’s cousin’s son and grandson were killed in an airstrike on October 23. On November 6, his maternal aunt’s four-story home, which housed her whole family, was fully destroyed by an airstrike. Some of Mr. Elkarra’s cousins report that they are making the difficult decision to split their children up between the two parents, to increase the chances that some survive if one group gets hit by an airstrike. Since the assault began, before Mr. Elkarra goes to bed in California, he checks on his family in Gaza when they should be waking up to see if they are still alive.
Plaintiff A.N. (pseudonym) is a Palestinian-American who lives in Massachusetts with his wife and children. He was born and raised in Gaza and is registered as a Gaza resident in Israel’s population registry. A.N’s family were forcibly displaced in 1948 from their home in the northern village of Asdod and have been refugees in Gaza since. On October 27, A.N’s father and cousin were injured by an Israeli airstrike that hit the mosque where they were praying. A.N’s family have remained together in the family home, where they host more than 120 members of their extended family who have fled the northern Gaza strip.