Palestinian human rights lawyers and activists on Wednesday handed a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court alleging that Israeli authorities are responsible for crimes including apartheid and persecution in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The documents are an attempt to provide evidence for an ongoing preliminary probe opened in 2015 by prosecutors at the global court into crimes committed on Palestinian territories.
The so-called preliminary examination aims to establish if there are sufficient grounds for opening a full-scale investigation into alleged crimes by Israel, but also by Palestinians, during and since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian rights group al-Haq, said in a statement that the dossier includes evidence that Israel forcibly removes Palestinians from the West Bank and replaces them with Israeli settlers.
“The communication to the International Criminal Court offers hope that anybody that commits crimes against Palestinians will be held to account,” Jabarin said. “We are convinced that there can be no lasting and genuine peace without justice.”
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem was studying the submission and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, called the transfer of Israeli settlers into occupied Palestinian territory, “a unique war crime in that it is coupled with the confiscation of massive tracts of Palestinian land, the extensive destruction of Palestinian property, and the tearing apart of the Palestinian social fabric and way of life.”
Under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, anybody can send prosecutors details of alleged crimes, but that does not mean the court will open a full investigation. It is unclear how long the preliminary examination of the Palestinian allegations will take.
In a written comment emailed to The Associated Press, the court’s prosecution office said it will “analyze the materials submitted, as appropriate, in accordance with the Rome Statute and with full independence and impartiality.”
Israel’s 50-day summer 2014 campaign against Hamas in Gaza originally began as a predominantly aerial campaign in response to repeated rocket attacks from the Strip, similar to the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense. But after Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, made use of its cross-border tunnel network to carry out attacks inside Israel, the focus shifted to tackling the subterranean threat.
A total of 74 people — 68 IDF soldiers, 11 of whom were killed in cross-border tunnel attacks; and 6 civilians — died on the Israeli side of the conflict. In Gaza, more than 2,000 people were killed, with Israel putting the percentage of civilians killed at approximately 50 percent, the rest being combatants. Additionally, Gaza itself was left badly damage by the fighting.
Rights groups have also accused Hamas of war crimes. Amnesty International in 2015 said Hamas used its 2014 Gaza war with Israel to “settle scores” with rival Palestinians, executing at least 23 in possible war crimes.
Israel has also accused Hamas of war crimes, including via its indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets into Israel during the conflict.
While rejecting allegations of war crimes against it, Israel has in the past also argued that the ICC has no authority to hear the Palestinian allegations since Palestine is not a country, and because the Israeli judicial system is independent and can itself handle war crimes allegations.