ICC Opens War Crimes Probe Against Israel and Palestinians

The international war crimes tribunal will investigate alleged atrocities by the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups, putting one of the world’s most intractable conflicts under unprecedented judicial scrutiny.

The investigation by the International Criminal Court will cover crimes alleged to have been committed since June 13, 2014, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement posted on the website of the Hague-based court. A day earlier Palestinian militants had kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, setting in motion a seven-week war.

Bensouda said in 2019 that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip during the war, the use of human shields and other abuses by the Palestinian militant groups, and Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority requested the probe and last month, the tribunal paved the way by determining that its jurisdiction applies to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. It had previously conducted a six-year preliminary investigation.

“This long-awaited step serves Palestine’s relentless endeavor to achieve justice and accountability as indispensable foundations for the peace that the Palestinian people demand and deserve,” the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said in a statement.

“This decision is fairness to the victims of our people who have risen from the crimes of the occupation,” said a spokesman for Gaza’s ruling Hamas militant group, Hazem Qassem.

The Palestinians asked the court to examine Israel’s actions during the 2014 war and its settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Israel, which does not belong to the ICC and has vigorously defended its conduct, denounced Wednesday’s decision. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called it “morally bankrupt and legally flawed,” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeling it “the essence of anti-Semitism.”

“Israel has come under attack,” Netanyahu said in a statement cited by the Haaretz newspaper in which he defended the “heroic and moral” actions of Israeli soldiers who “fight against the cruelest of terorrists on the face of the earth.”

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