The Palestinians asked the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israel on war crimes charges linked to last year’s Gaza Strip war and construction in Jewish settlements.
The brief was presented on Thursday in an attempt to sway The Hague-based court to bring war crimes charges at the end of its own, separate examination of Israeli conduct in territories the Palestinians claim for a state. One question the court will have to resolve is whether any identified offenses meet the standard of the atrocities the court was established to handle. Israel denies it committed war crimes.
Documents submitted to the court “should be sufficient proof for the ICC prosecutor’s office to make a determination to initiate an investigation,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian official involved in building the case.
The Palestinians joined the ICC in April, a year after the last round of peacemaking broke down, as part of their campaign to pressure Israel diplomatically and win further international recognition of an independent state. Israel, which doesn’t belong to the court, says rocket fire at Israelis from Gaza make the Palestinians themselves guilty of war crimes.
“We see this as a Palestinian provocation and an attempt to manipulate the court, and we hope the prosecutors do not fall into this trap,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said of the Palestinian brief to the ICC.
The allegations submitted to the court date back to June 2014 and also include Israeli conduct toward Palestinians prisoners it holds, and military operations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Alleged war crimes offenses include the killing of hundreds of minors, confiscation of land for settlements, extrajudicial killings, the use of human shields, and the unlawful use of detentions without charge.
On Monday, a United Nations panel investigating the 50-day conflict last year between Israel and Gaza militants found evidence suggesting both sides committed war crimes. The UN panel called on both Israelis and Palestinians to cooperate with the ICC investigation.