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Abbas signs up to Hague court

January 1, 2015

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signed the founding document of the International Criminal Court. It comes hours after a bid for independence by 2017 failed at the UN Security Council.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) signs international agreements in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in this December 31, 2014 handout picture.
Image: Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed applications to join some 20 international agreements Wednesday, foremost among them the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"We want to complain. There's aggression against us, against our land. The Security Council disappointed us," Abbas said Wednesday according to Associated Press as he gathered a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.

A resolution at the United Security Council which outlined a timeframe to end the Israeli occupation of the territories was voted down on Tuesday by the United Nations Security Council. Abbas has long signaled Palestinians would seek new avenues for action against Israel if that bid failed.

Palestinians hope that joining the International Criminal Court might pave the way for war crimes prosecutions to be taken up against Israeli officials for their actions in the occupied territories.

Warnings from Israel

The move was certain to anger Israel and the United States, which have strongly opposed the Palestinian authorities joining the ICC. Israel prefers all disputes to be resolved through peace talks and said such actions were aimed at bypassing negotiations.

Israel had previously warned that joining the Hague-based court, which can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, could backfire on Palestinians by exposing them to prosecution.

Shortly after the signing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened "steps in reponse." He vowed to defend Israeli soldiers from any potential prosecution.

Netanyahu told reporters the court could also target the Palestinians, citing Abbas' unity deal with Hamas Islamists. He called the grouping "an avowed terrorist organisation which, like ISIS, carries out war crimes," referring to another acronym for the "Islamic State" or IS.

Following decades of failed on-and-off negotiations, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians soared in 2014 with the collapse of US-brokered peace talks, a deadly 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and violent attacks by citizens on both sides in Jerusalem and beyond.

The conflict killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 people, mainly soldiers, on the Israeli side.

se/rc (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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