14:01 GMT 03.03.2021(updated 16:54 GMT 03.03.2021)
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Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the International Criminal Court of “pure anti-Semitism” after The Hague-based tribunal approved in principle a probe into alleged war crimes in Israeli-controlled Palestinian territories.
The International Criminal Court has opened a formal probe into alleged war crimes committed in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, said in a statement Wednesday.
“Today, I confirm the initiation by the office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the situation in Palestine,” Bensouda said.
The prosecutor specified that the probe would “cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office.”
Bensouda emphasised that in accordance with the ICC’s founding principles, investigations undertaken by her office are “conducted independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favour,” and “cover all facts and evidence relevant to an assessment” on whether criminal activity has taken place.
The decision to undertake the investigation was made after carrying out what the prosecutor called a “painstaking preliminary examination” that took place over nearly five years in coordination with representatives from both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Israel Slams Decision, PA Welcomes Move
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ICC’s decision, with its foreign ministry calling it a “long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve.”
Palestinian political and militant group Hamas, a possible co-defendent in the investigation, announced Wednesday that it also welcomes the probe, and defended its own actions as “legitimate resistance.”
“We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice for the victims of our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Reuters. “Our resistance is legitimate, and it comes to defend our people. All international laws approve legitimate resistance,” the spokesman added.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi blasted the new investigation, however, characterizing it as “an act of moral and legal bankruptcy” on the ICC’s part.