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ICC at the Hague
The ICC could now prosecute IsraelImage: Everett Collection/picture alliance
ConflictsMiddle East

ICC clears way for war crimes probe of Israeli actions

February 5, 2021

Judges in The Hague said the court could investigate cases in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel branded the ruling "political," while Palestinians said it was a "victory for truth."


The International Criminal Courtruled on Friday that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel since a 1967 war.

In a two-to-one decision, the court said it has the power to rule on cases in "Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem."

The decision could clear the way for The Hague-based tribunal’s chief prosecutor to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in 2019 that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip in 2014.

She named both the Israeli Defence Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.

The 2014 conflict left nearly 2,000 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis dead.

The Gambian lawyer also wanted to investigate Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank. 

But she asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the ruling, calling the court “a political body and not a judicial institution.”

“The ICC ignores the real war crimes and instead pursues the State of Israel, a state with a strong democratic government that sanctifies the rule of law,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh hailed the ruling as “a victory for truth, justice, freedom and moral values in the world.”

The Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015, have pushed for the case.

Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, has long argued that the court has no jurisdiction.

It says there is no sovereign Palestinian state that could delegate to the court criminal jurisdiction over its territory and nationals.

But the ICC could still issue arrest warrants that would make it difficult for Israeli officials to travel abroad. 

The international community widely considers the settlements to be illegal under international law.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state. 

Some 700,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians say they are an obstacle to peace.

West Bank: Living with Uncertainty

jf/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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