An Israeli legal group filed suit against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the International Criminal Court on Monday, arguing that the Fatah head was responsible for rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israeli cities during the summer conflict which were claimed by members of his faction.
While neither Israel nor the PA are members of the international body and therefore do not fall under its jurisdiction, the Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center maintained that “Abbas is a Jordanian citizen and Jordan is a current member of the ICC. The ICC is empowered to exercise its jurisdiction over all acts committed by the citizen of a member, wherever those acts are committed.”
The lawsuit maintains that Abbas should be tried for the various rocket attacks on Israel claimed by Fatah during the 50-day conflict in Gaza — on July 10, 25 and 27, and August 8 — as “he is their responsible superior exercising effective command and control of them.” Rocket fire on civilians is a war crime under international law, it notes.
“Abbas should be immediately investigated and prosecuted for these rocket attacks against Israel,” Shurat HaDin chairwoman Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said in a statement.
“Shurat HaDin will not allow Fatah to carry out rocket attacks on Israeli population centers, while hypocritically advocating Palestinian membership in the ICC. Abbas falsely believes that alleged crimes against Arabs are the only ones that should be prosecuted,” she wrote.
The Israeli rights group lodged an ICC complaint against Qatar-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who is also a Jordanian citizen, in late September.
Despite Jordan’s “wide-ranging anti-terror laws,” the complaint notes, Jordan “has no means of obtaining custody of Mahmoud Abbas.” Moreover, the Jordanian legislation is “applied in a patently unfair and politically-motivated fashion,” it maintained.
In mid-September, a reporter from Russia’s RT television network was given a tour of a rocket manufacturing site somewhere in the Gaza Strip. A video of the visit, with English subtitles, was published on YouTube by Palestinian Media Watch shortly after.
The RT reporter met with masked Fatah workers who were seen mixing rocket fuel and explosives in a saucepan heated with an open gas burner. In the small, windowless facility, several rockets and mortars bombs could seen stacked up against a wall decorated with a poster featuring former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“We are preparing and developing rockets in the productions division of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades,” one of the workers told the reporter. “During the last war we fired rockets at the Zionist enemy, we have notified the enemy that we have many more [rockets]. We have also successfully developed the K-132 rocket, which is here beside me.”
Since the summer’s Operation Protective Edge, the PA has threatened repeatedly to join the ICC and prosecute Israel for war crimes, but has yet to do so. Joining the international court and lodging a war crimes complaint would transform Abbas’s relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could also strain his ties with the United States. If Abbas were to turn to the court, Hamas could be investigated for indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel since 2000.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.