Israel urges ICC to reject Palestinian request

Palestinian minister delivers Israel 'war crimes' referral to ICC

The Palestinian Authority is set to press the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to open a war crimes probe against Israel for settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. "This step [Palestine's call to the ICC] is meant to ensure that those most responsible for these crimes are held accountable for their actions without further delay", the ministry stated.

A statement from the Israeli Foreign Ministry called Tuesday's request "absurd", accusing the Palestinians of incitement and exploiting civilians as "human shields".

According to a Palestinian statement, the so-called referral that Mr Al Maliki handed to the court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on Tuesday underscored "that there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes to warrant an immediate investigation".

Malki called the request an important "test" of accountability for the ICC.

In retaliation for Palestine's decision to join the ICC in 2015, Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax revenues that it collects on behalf of the PA.

Should the court's chief prosecutor, now Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, agree to take up an investigation of Israel, the case faces a series of time-consuming hurdles.

Since March, Israel has killed more than 108 Palestinians and wounded thousands in Gaza through its use of live ammunition to disperse peaceful protests for the Right of Return.

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The step was sure to worsen the already troubled relations between the internationally backed Palestinian Authority and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Last week another worldwide body, the United Nations Human Rights Council, considered a resolution to "urgently dispatch an independent, global commission of inquiry" to investigate "all alleged violations and abuses" of civilians since the latest Gaza protests began on March 30.

On the referral of Israel to the ICC, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation said: "The referral will include Israel's past, present and future war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people".

Any charges would need to be enforced by member states, as the court does not have a law enforcement arm and can only indict suspects. Most notably, this referral will cover "crimes associated with the Israeli colonial settlement regime in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem". The Israeli military captured the territory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and claimed the territory is not occupied as it was captured from Jordan.

The Palestinians believe the settlement case to be their strongest to take to the ICC.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership of Fatah has frozen ties with the White House over its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements that are illegal under the global law, which prohibits construction on occupied land. "The use of lethal and other excessive force is a serious violation of worldwide law, yet our efforts to challenge the policy from within Israel have been met with support for the status quo". Israel withdrew its settlements and some 8,000 settlers from Gaza in 2005.

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