Palestinians: ICC must accelerate probe into ‘Israeli war crimes’

Abbas meets chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague to discuss what PA officials term a ‘grave escalation’ by Jewish state

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, October 28, 2015. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, File)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, October 28, 2015. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP, File)

Palestinian officials on Friday urged the International Criminal Court to speed up its probe into accusations of “Israeli war crimes,” handing over a new dossier alleging summary killings and collective punishment.

A delegation led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “to expedite” a preliminary inquiry, after the dossier was handed over earlier in the day documenting new alleged crimes in the past 40 days, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told reporters.

Abbas arrived late Friday at the court for talks with Bensouda, accompanied by Malki, an AFP correspondent said. It was his first meeting with the prosecutor since the Palestinian Authority sparked controversy by joining the tribunal in January.

The preliminary ICC probe aims to establish if there are grounds to open a full-scale investigation. It is unclear when it will be completed, but Malki said Friday he wants the court to finish quickly.

If Israel “feels impunity and there is no process of accountability, then what will deter Israel from multiplying the numbers of victims,” he said. “I think it’s important for Israel to get messages — clear messages and strong messages — and that’s why we are pushing for expediting the preliminary examination.”

There was no immediate response from Israel on the Palestinians’ actions, although the Jewish state very rarely makes official comments during Shabbat.

The Palestinian leader, who is in the Netherlands as part of a European tour, was to visit Bensouda “in the context of the grave Israeli escalation in occupied Palestine,” a Palestinian official said earlier Friday, 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 flashpoint Temple Mount holy site.

Meanwhile, Abbas assured Dutch Jews on Friday that he neither intends to abandon the 1993 agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians nor insist on the absorption of millions of Palestinians into Israel.

“We never said we were going to cancel the Oslo Accords,” Abbas said at a meeting near The Hague with members of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, Dutch Jewry’s main pro-Israel advocacy organ and watchdog on anti-Semitism.

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.

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 Hamas officials in Gaza said the Palestinian death toll surpassed 2,100. 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.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, Max Koot Studio/Wikimedia)
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Max Koot Studio/Wikimedia)

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, Malki 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 2014. 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.

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 to join the ICC in January also angered the United States which denounced it as “counterproductive.”

The court 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.

AP contributed to this report.

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