THE HAGUE, (Reuters) – The Palestinian Authority made its first submission of evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court yesterday, trying to speed up an ICC inquiry into abuses committed during last year’s Gaza conflict.
The move may leave Israel in a quandary since it must decide whether to cooperate with the ICC investigation or find itself isolated as one of a very few countries that have declined to work with its prosecutors.
Some $400 million in annual U.S. economic aid to the Palestinian Authority could also be jeopardized by the inquiry.
Israel denies allegations of war crimes by its forces during the 2014 Gaza war and accuses Islamist militants who control the Gaza Strip of atrocities in firing thousands of rockets at Israeli population centres.
Standing outside the ICC after meeting the court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said he had submitted dossiers on the Gaza conflict, Israeli settlements on occupied land where Palestinians seek a state, and treatment of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
“Palestine is a test for the credibility of international mechanisms … a test the world cannot afford to fail. Palestine has decided to seek justice, not vengeance,” Maliki said.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “The Palestinian move is nothing more than an attempt to manipulate the ICC and we hope that the prosecutor will not fall into the trap.”
A cease-fire in August ended 50 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel in which health officials said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
U.N. investigators said on Monday that Israel and Palestinian militant groups committed grave abuses of international humanitarian law during the conflict that may amount to war crimes.