Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “state terror” and “war crimes” on Wednesday, amid fighting between Palestinian terror groups and the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip.
“This is organized state terror conducted by Israel. These are war crimes punishable under international law. We shall not hesitate to pursue those who commit such crimes before the International Criminal Court,” Abbas said in a pre-recorded address to the Arab Parliament, the symbolic legislative body of the Arab League.
The International Criminal Court in the Hague is currently investigating both Israel and Hamas for war crimes committed since 2014.
Israel and Hamas have been engaged in fighting for the past ten days, with the Gaza rulers firing thousands of rockets at Israeli territory and the IDF responding with heavy airstrikes at Hamas and other terror group targets in the enclave.
Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule in various enclaves in the West Bank, while Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.
Some 227 Palestinians, including 64 children, have been killed in the recent fighting, according to the Gaza health ministry. The IDF says most of the fatalities were members of terror groups.
Twelve people have been killed by rocket fire in Israel, including a five-year-old boy.
Palestinian terrorists have launched thousands of rockets at Israel, exceeding the amount fired during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. Israel has responded with massive airstrikes, including bombarding miles of underground Hamas tunnel networks, tearing up large sections of Gaza City’s downtown and demolishing residential high-rises.
“Israel is brutally attacking civilians and deliberately destroying homes and structures on the heads of their residents. Israel is destroying infrastructure and killing the elderly, women and children,” Abbas said.
In some — but not all — cases, Israel warns residents to leave their homes before an impending strike so as to minimize casualties. Israel says it does not target civilians, and accuses Hamas of using Gazans as human shields for its rocket attacks on Israel.
Abbas also invoked other issues that have enraged Palestinians in recent weeks, such as allegations of Israeli police brutality on the Temple Mount, a site deeply revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hundreds of Palestinians were injured at the compound in violent clashes with Israeli police earlier this month.
Despite Abbas’s fiery statements on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority president has taken a back seat during the hostilities between Israel and Hamas. His televised remarks on Wednesday were the second time Abbas has publicly spoken on the fighting since last Monday.
With international attention on the Gaza Strip, Hamas has been in touch with senior figures across the Arab world, especially in Egypt and Qatar. Abbas’s office has not publicly reported any high-level Arab contacts since the beginning of the crisis.
The West Bank saw several mass protests over the past few days in which tens of thousands of Palestinians participated. The demonstrations did not appear to be initiated by Abbas’s Fatah movement, although Fatah later called for its members to participate. Four Palestinians were killed during Tuesday’s protests.
Abbas also told the crowd a recent decision to delay the first Palestinian elections in 15 years did not mean they had been canceled.
The PA president was widely seen to have delayed the elections indefinitely due to fear of losing power. Many in the international community saw the delay as an effective cancellation of the vote.
“Our efforts to hold the elections are ongoing,” Abbas asserted, although he did not say whether a new date had yet been set.