I.C.C. Will Investigate Accusations of War Crimes in Israeli-Occupied Territories

Palestinians next to their houses destroyed by Israeli shelling in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip in 2014. 

JERUSALEM — The International Criminal Court announced on Wednesday that it was opening an investigation into allegations of war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militant groups in territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

The decision, bound to infuriate the Israelis and be welcomed by the Palestinian leadership and its supporters, comes six years after the court began a preliminary investigation of Israeli actions in the territories and just weeks after a ruling by the court that it had jurisdiction in the territories.

The court’s outgoing chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement on Wednesday that the investigation would cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the court that were alleged to have been committed since June 13, 2014, shortly before the start of that summer’s devastating, 50-day Gaza war.

In the past, Ms. Bensouda has cited a “reasonable basis to believe” that war crimes had been committed, pointing to what she described as Israel’s disproportionate use of force in the 2014 war in Gaza and its continuing settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Also under scrutiny is Israel’s deadly response to Palestinian protests in 2018 along the border fence in Gaza.

Another likely focus is indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian militant groups against Israeli civilian communities.

The court ruled that its areas of jurisdiction include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

“To both Palestinian and Israeli victims and affected communities, we urge patience,” the statement read. It added, “Investigations take time and they must be grounded objectively in facts and law.”

ImageA rocket launched by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip hit this house in the Israeli town of Kiryat Gat in 2014.
Credit…Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Israel has accused the court, which is based in The Hague, in the Netherlands, of acting out of political motivation in the case and without valid legal basis. Palestinian leaders and human rights organizations have hailed the court’s efforts so far as a step toward justice.

The court ruled that its areas of jurisdiction include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

“To both Palestinian and Israeli victims and affected communities, we urge patience,” the statement read. It added, “Investigations take time and they must be grounded objectively in facts and law.”

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