ICC prosecutor opens formal investigation into battle crimes in Palestinian territories

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: ICC Prosecutor: will open formal investigation into war crimes in Palestinian territories

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By Stephanie van den Berg and Anthony Deutsch

The Hague (Reuters) – International Criminal Court prosecutors said Wednesday that their office would open a formal investigation into war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, investigating both sides of the conflict.

The decision came after the court ruled on February 5 that it had jurisdiction over the case. This led to a swift rejection of Washington and Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the verdict.

“The decision to open an investigation followed a careful preliminary examination by my office that lasted nearly five years,” outgoing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

“In the end, our central concern must be the victims of Palestinian and Israeli crimes resulting from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides,” said Bensouda.

“My office will take the same principled, impartial approach that it has taken in all situations for which it is claimed to be responsible.”

Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019 that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip”. She named both the Israel Defense Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.

The next step will be to determine whether the Israeli or Palestinian authorities are investigating themselves and assess them.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When the court ruled on jurisdiction, it said, “If the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, it is pure anti-Semitism.”

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation.

It is “a long-awaited move that serves Palestine’s relentless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace that the Palestinian people seek and deserve,” the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

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