Palestinians welcomed the prosecutor’s move while the US secretary of state and Israel’s prime minister declared their opposition.
Rabat – The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced on Friday, December 20, that she will investigate whether Israeli actions against Palestinians amount to war crimes.
Fatou Bensouda believes that “war crimes” had been or are being committed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Bensouda asked for a ruling on the court’s territorial jurisdiction.
The prosecutor said that a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes has provided enough information to open an investigation. The examination was opened in 2015 following a case that Palestine brought.
The ICC has been examining what they view as Israel-perpetrated war crimes since June 2014, one month before a war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The war killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, and 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians.
“I am satisfied that … war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” Bensouda said in a statement.
Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
Palestinians, who have been submitting a series of complaints to launch an investigation into war crimes in Gaza, welcomed the ICC’s move.
“Palestine welcomes this step as a long-overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of preliminary examination,” the Palestinian Authority said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered the move a “political tool” against the Israeli state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, and the court does not have jurisdiction to rule on matters of non-member states.
Bensouda had filed a request with judges to rule on what territory a future inquiry would cover because of the contested legal and factual issues of the territories.
“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza,” Bensouda said.
The prosecutor’s case will focus on issues like Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank and its military operations in Gaza.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo entered the debate to declare his country’s opposition to the investigation. He considered the investigation as unfairly targeting Israel.
“We firmly oppose this and any other action that seeks to target Israel unfairly,” Pompeo said in a statement.