Court Sides With Defense Ministry in Majdi Halabi Reward Case

Nazmi Halabi, father of Majdi, visiting Noam Shalit in a protest tent set up across from the residence of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in 2009. (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The High Court has ordered that a $10 million payment or any part thereof be withheld from two brothers who discovered the remains of IDF soldier Majdi Halabi. The court was responding to requests by the Defense Ministry that the payment be withheld until it had a chance to present its case to the court in a second round of the civil suit brought against the Ministry by the Kozli brothers, who found the soldier’s remains.

The case has been ongoing since 2012, when a court ordered that the Kozli brothers be paid NIS 10 million for finding the remains of IDF soldier Majdi Halabi. IDF soldier Halabi went missing May 24, 2005 as he left his home for the army base he was serving at, near Haifa. He took money out of an automatic teller machine in Daliat al-Carmel and waited at a nearby hitchhiking post. Two days later, his parents received word that Majdi had never arrived at his base. A search ensued, but Majdi was never found, with security official speculating that he had been kidnapped by terrorists and transported to Syria or Lebanon.

He was eventually found in 2012 by Khader and Ibrahim Kozli, two members of the Druze community and residents of Daliat al-Carmel. The two were working clearing trees from a forest fire in the Carmel Forest when they found Majdi’s remains.

After Halabi went missing, an organization called “Lachofesh Nolad” (Born to be Free) offered a $10 million prize for information on the whereabouts of the soldier, and the brothers attempted to collect. But the Ministry refused to pay, saying that the money was never meant for the discovery of the soldier’s remains in a patch of forest in Israel. In 2012, the organization disbanded, and the Kozli brothers demanded that the Defense Ministry pay the reward. The Ministry refused, and the case has been in the courts ever since.

The Ministry said that the decision by the court that the brothers collect a reward offered for finding the soldier, was offered because it was believed that he was lost abroad, not inside Israel. The High Court said that the contention was worth a second look, and a retrial would be scheduled in the near future.

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