(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority claimed on Tuesday it has “clear evidence” that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians were now preparing to join the International Criminal Court in order to file war crimes charges against Israel, PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said.
A Israeli Foreign Ministry representative declined to respond to the assertion, saying there was no need to “speculate and give credibility to a propaganda stunt.”
Over the past few weeks Israeli officials have said the Palestinians are aware that such a move could backfire and open them up to war crimes investigations. Not only was Hamas firing from Gaza indiscriminately on a civilian population, one official point out, but the West Bank under the PA is not exactly a beacon of human rights.
The PA has been facing growing pressure from Palestinians to join the ICC in order to bring war crime charges against Israel, particularly in the aftermath of the Operation Protection Edge military operation.
Malki met on Tuesday with officials of the ICC in the Netherlands to discuss the war in the Gaza Strip.
The meeting was held to inquire about the legal procedures required for the “State of Palestine” to join the ICC and sign the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, in order to take action against possible Israeli war crimes, Malki’s office said.
A previous attempt by the PA to join the ICC failed because “Palestine” was not recognized as a country.
In November 2012, it obtained the status of non-member observer of the UN General Assembly – a move that allows it to join the ICC and other international agencies and treaties.
After meeting with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Malki said there was “clear evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip.”
Bensouda’s office said in a short statement that the court did not have jurisdiction over the alleged war crimes, as Palestine has not signed up to the ICC’s Rome Statute.
Nor has the office received any “official document from Palestine indicating acceptance of ICC jurisdiction or requesting the prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged crimes following the November 2012 UN General Assembly resolution,” the statement said.
The meeting between Malki and the chief prosecutor came at the latter’s request and was held “for the foreign minister to seek clarification on the different mechanisms for a state to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC,” Bensouda’s office said.Herb Keinon and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.