The Palestinian Authority hinted Saturday that it was considering complaining to the International Criminal Court against Israel for approving the construction of 3,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said that the Israeli decision was a "war crime" and an "act of aggression against the State of Palestine."

She said that the decision was a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone and outlaws the practice of total war.

Ashrawi said that Israel was obviously sending a "premeditated" message to the international community following last Thursday's UN General Assembly vote in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state.

"Israel's message is that it is continuing to challenge the will of the international community and international law," she added. "This unilateral and systematic policy is in the context of the Israeli government's scheme to steal the lands of the State of Palestine and the world must hold Israel accountable for its aggression against the lands of the occupied State of Palestine."

PA President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters before heading back from New York to Ramallah that the Palestinians were now entitled to file a complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court.

But, he said, "we don't want to go the court now. We will go only if we are attacked and if we have to." He said that he relayed this position to several countries, including the US.

Abbas's comment was made before the Israeli government announced plans to build new housing units.

"The Fourth Geneva Convention now applies to the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders," Abbas said. "The lands of the State of Palestine are occupied and it is forbidden to make any demographic changes in them. It is forbidden to transfer the citizens of another country to our state. The presence of Israeli settlers is in violation of international law."

Abbas said that the Palestinians were expecting only 115 countries to vote in favor of his statehood bid. "We faced horrific and intolerable pressure," he added.

"What is important now is that the State of Palestine and its capital, east Jerusalem, are under occupation. We will never accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem."

Abbas called for an end to settlement construction and the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel. "The ball is now in the Israeli and American court," he said. "I have announced one million times that we want to return to the negotiations. We are prepared for this now and we are not setting pre-conditions. The issue of the Palestinian state and its borders has now become clear with the UN vote. Let's go and talk about the six core issues: refugees, security, Jerusalem, settlements and water."

The PA is preparing a hero's welcome for Abbas upon his return to Ramallah on Sunday.

PA officials said they are planning a big rally in the city to welcome Abbas after his success at the UN General Assembly.


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