Israeli NGO Shurat HaDin is building a case against Hamas to be submitted to the International Criminal Court over the terrorist group’s use of flaming kites that targeted Israeli border farms over the past month.
According to Israeli media, the kites are responsible for some 260 fires in Israeli fields over the past month, destroying thousands of acres of crops and causing millions of dollars in damage.
Shurat HaDin is asking farmers on the Gaza border to support its pending legal petition to the ICC.
“Israel will not remain silent,” Shurat HaDin founder and president Nitzana Darshan-Leitner said. “The current security situation, in which fields and forests in Israel are burned every day by activists in a terrorist organization, is inconceivable.”
“It cannot be that senior Hamas officials will accuse Israel of war crimes while using a civilian population, especially children, as human shields for their terrorist activities, which are repeatedly targeted at Israeli citizens,” she said. “Therefore, we call on the International Criminal Court in The Hague to exact justice upon them.”
Hamas’s offenses are “a flagrant violation of many articles of the Rome Statute,” the NGO said.
Among the Israeli farmers who have already joined its case is Ofer Liberman, the manager of the agricultural branch of Kibbutz Nir Am, which lost 250 acres in fires ignited by flaming kites, Shurat HaDin said.
Kibbutz Alumim security officer Rafi Babian has also joined the case, the NGO said.
Israeli farmers on the Gaza border told Army Radio the flaming kites, which they called “terror kites,” caused much more damage than the rockets and the mortars Hamas has launched against them since 2001.
The complaint will specifically target senior Hamas figures, including Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh, Shurat HaDin said.
The NGO said it decided to turn to the ICC after the Palestinian Authority last week formally asked the court to open an investigation into Israeli war crimes.
The PA became a party to the court when it signed the Rome Statute in 2015, a move that allowed it to submit a case against Israel to the ICC this month.
For the past four years, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has weighed the question of formally opening a war-crimes investigation into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She has not yet reached any conclusions.
Last month, Bensouda warned both Hamas and Israel that they could be liable for war-crimes prosecutions over their actions in Gaza.
“Violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities,” she said.
“I remind all parties that the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination by my office,” she added. “While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my office’s scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident...
“Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence, including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop,” Bensouda said.
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