The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched an inquiry into the alleged war crimes in now Israeli-occupied areas of West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, reported The Guardian.
Israel has condemned the decision as several soldiers and senior political figures could be at a risk of prosecution. The probe into the crime had been extended for long due to deliberations over ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed by both Israel and Palestine, reported the media.
Announcing the green light to the investigation, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that the inquiry will be conducted “independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour”, as per an Aljazeera report. She was quoted saying, “Today, I confirm the initiation by the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the situation in Palestine.”
According to The Guardian, the prosecutor also said on record that if the investigation identifies suspects allegedly responsible for crimes, the prosecutors can ask the ICC judges to issue international arrest warrants, which can remain under seal to help authorities apprehend those charged.
As Palestinians welcome this move and feel that it was long overdue, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The decision of the international court to open an investigation against Israel today for war crimes is absurd. It’s undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy. The court, which was established to prevent a recurrence of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people, is now turning against the state of the Jewish people,” reported BBC News.
United States’ State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the decision and told BBC News, “We firmly oppose and are disappointed by the ICC prosecutor’s announcement of an investigation into the Palestinian situation….will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly.”
In 2019, Fatou Bensouda had said that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe and according to a report in The Guardian, the inquiry is expected to cover the 2014 Gaza war, the 2018 Gaza border clashes and Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank. The investigation will also look at whether rocket fire by Hamas (Palestinian militant organisation) and other groups from Gaza amounts to war crimes.
Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, told Reuters, “We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice for the victims of our people. Our resistance is legitimate, and it comes to defend our people. All international laws approve legitimate resistance.”
After the ICC’s 2:1 majority verdict to go ahead with prosecuting war crimes in Palestine, the Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he described recently as a “great friend”, asking India to speak out against the decision, reported The Indian Express. But India has decided to not comment or take a position on any of the court’s rulings.