Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet on Friday with ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague, Palestinian officials said, amid the current wave of Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians and security forces in Israel and across the West Bank.
It will be Abbas’s first meeting with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court since the Palestinian Authority sparked controversy by joining the tribunal in January, an official with the Palestinian mission in The Hague told AFP.
Abbas, who is in the Netherlands as part of a European tour, would visit Bensouda “in the context of the grave Israeli escalation in occupied Palestine,” the official said, asking not to be identified. Israel has accused Abbas of helping fuel the terror surge, in part by peddling “lies” about purported Israeli plans to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s contested Temple Mount holy site.
Ten Israelis have been killed in the spate of near-daily attacks since October 1 and dozens have been wounded. Over 60 Palestinians have been killed in the latest round of violence, the majority of them while carrying out stabbing attacks against Israelis. The rest died in clashes with Israeli military forces.
There was no immediate confirmation from the ICC that Bensouda was meeting with Abbas.
Earlier this year, the Palestinians formally asked the ICC to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, drawing Jerusalem’s ire.
Israel lost 66 soldiers and six civilians, and a Thai agricultural worker, in the month-long conflict, while the Palestinian death toll surpassed 2,100, according to Hamas officials in Gaza. Israel said about half of the Gaza dead were gunmen and blamed Hamas for all civilian deaths because it operated against Israel from residential areas, placing Gazans in harm’s way.
Bensouda has officially opened a preliminary inquiry into the Palestinian allegations to see whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a more formal investigation.
To support their case, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki handed over two files to the ICC in June as evidence of its allegations.
One file dealt with alleged Israeli crimes committed in Gaza during the 50-day war in July and August last year.
The other file delved into the situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including “information about the issue of Palestinian prisoners,” the Palestinian mission in The Hague said in June.
Abbas has also since called on Bensouda to probe the July firebombing of a Palestinian home blamed on Jewish extremists, in which a toddler and his parents died.
Maliki was to accompany Abbas for Friday’s talks, and would address the press afterwards, the Palestinian official told AFP, refusing to be drawn further on the purpose of the visit.
Israel, which has not signed up to the ICC, has opposed the Palestinian attempt to trigger a full investigation for war crimes, but Jerusalem has said it will engage with prosecutors.
The Palestinian move also angered the United States which denounced it as “counterproductive.”
The ICC was set up in 2002 to investigate and try those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, where national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.