Fatou Bensouda, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), declared on Wednesday that her agency had decided to open a formal investigation into suspected war crimes in Palestine. The probe will be headed by British attorney Karim Ahmad Khan, who will take over as chief prosecutor from Bensouda on June 16.
“The decision to launch an inquiry was made after a painstaking preliminary review conducted by my office that lasted nearly five years,” Bensouda said. Bensouda vowed that the matter would be conducted “independently, impartially, and critically, without fear or favour,” and that it would be handled “independently, impartially, and objectively, without fear or favour.” “War crimes have been or are being perpetrated in the West Bank, like East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” according to the preliminary investigation undertaken in December 2019.
The investigation will concentrate on suspected war crimes perpetrated since June 13, 2014, a few weeks before Israel’s military intervention in the Gaza Strip, according to the chief prosecutor. According to Bensouda, the investigation’s targets would be “determined in due time.” Both the Isareli Defense Forces and the Palestinian terrorist organisation Hamas were identified as possible perpetrators by her.
Since 2015, Palestine has been a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and has long suspected Israel of war crimes. Israel is not a member of the ICC, which says that since Palestine is not a sovereign state, the court has little authority over the Palestinian Territories.
The ICC’s ruling, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is “the root of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy,” and the court is “turning a blind eye to Iran, Syria, and other dictatorships that are conducting actual war crimes.”
“Without any authority, it has been determined that our courageous troops, who take any precaution to prevent civilian casualties against the world’s worst terrorists that intentionally attack civilians, are war criminals,” Netanyahu said in the declaration. He has said that he would “battle for the facts before this scandalous judgement is overturned.” The opinion of the ICC, according to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, is “morally bankrupt and technically flawed.”
“[w]e will continue to maintain our firm commitment to Israel and its stability,” said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the US State Department. The ICC, according to Price, “has no authority over this matter.” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said that the two countries would “continue to work together.”
Under former US President Donald Trump, the United States, which is now a non-member of the organisation, targeted penalties against the prosecutor’s office. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee asked current US President Joe Biden to maintain the restrictions, describing the ICC’s action as a “illegitimate, politically driven inquiry.” The inquiry into US forces in Afghanistan by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is also opposed by the US.
The Palestinian National Authority’s Foreign Ministry, which has authority in the West Bank, described the judgement as “a long-awaited move that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and transparency,” while also urging countries not to politicise “these impartial proceedings.”
“We accepted the ICC decision to prosecute Israeli occupation war crimes against our citizens,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, who had previously claimed that rocket attacks on Israel in 2014 were legitimate under international law. “It is a move forward to enact peace, prosecute the occupation, and do justice to the Palestinian nation,” Qassem also told the Associated Press.
According to UN figures, 2200 Palestinians were killed in the 2014 Gaza conflict, also known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge, including 1500 civilians. According to Israeli reports, at least 73 Israelis were killed in the operation, including six civilians.
According to the Associated Press, the Israeli government also launched public affairs and diplomatic activities in an effort to avoid the probe.