ICC gives Israel a month to seek deferral of war crimes probe

The International Criminal Court says it has sent formal notices to Israel and the Palestinian Authority about its impending investigation into possible war crimes, giving them a month to seek deferral by proving they are carrying out their own investigations.

Earlier this month, the ICC announced it would investigate possible war crimes committed by Israel and by Palestinian terrorists following a request by the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015 after being granted nonmember observer status in the UN General Assembly.

Israel has fiercely condemned the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias and saying it has no jurisdiction since the Palestinians do not have a state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens could be subject to arrest abroad if warrants are issued.

The ICC prosecutor’s office confirms in a written statement to The Associated Press that on March 9 the letters were sent to all of the court’s member states and those states and entities that would normally exercise jurisdiction, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli and Palestinian officials decline to comment.

The ICC is expected to focus on the 2014 Gaza war, Israel’s crackdown on often-violent border protests in Hamas-run Gaza in recent years and Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank. The probe will also look at terrorist rocket fire from Gaza onto civilian areas in Israel.

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