The Hague: The International Criminal Court conducted a formal investigation on alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories on Wednesday. The move was criticized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling it “the essence of anti-Semitism.”
Palestinian authorities hailed the decision by ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda as an “urgent and necessary” probe into the situation in the blockaded Gaza Strip along with the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem since June 2014.
The move plunges The Hague-based tribunal — which has faced frequent criticism by Israel and its ally the United States — into the midst of one of the world s most bitter conflicts and risks inflaming an already tense situation.
Washington said it was “disappointed”, and State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US would “firmly oppose” the move.
Bensouda said that she has determined that both parties have “potential cases admissible”, and the focus of the investigation is the 2014 conflict in Gaza, which caused more than 2,000 deaths.
“In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides,” the prosecutor said.
Ben Souda, who was born in Gambia, said that the formal investigation was conducted after a five-year “hard” preliminary investigation, and he vowed to conduct “independently, impartially and objectively without worry or partiality.”
Israel refused to sign a court established in 2002 to try the world’s most serious crimes, but since 2015, Palestinians have been a party to the International Criminal Court.