ICC Prosecutor: Significant Progress Toward Decision About Investigating Israeli Actions in Gaza, West Bank

Prosecutor's Office notes allegations that Israel has been involved in demolishing Palestinian property and evicting Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian students make their way to school in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar that Israel plans to demolish, in the West Bank, October 16, 2018.
REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman/File Photo

The International Criminal Court Prosecutor's Office said there was significant progress toward a decision on investigating Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza in a statement issued on Wednesday.

The Prosecutor's Office specifically noted allegations that Israel has been involved in demolishing Palestinian property and evicting Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It also referenced 2014's Operation Protective Edge, the war in the Gaza Strip, as well as Israel's plan to evacuate residents of the Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar, and Israeli construction of settlements in the West Bank.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in October that "extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes" under the Rome Statute treaty that established the ICC.

>> Explained: Why Israel Still Hasn't Evacuated the Bedouin Village That Sparked a Diplomatic Firestorm

In 2015, Bensouda began investigating whether Israel committed war crimes in the Palestinian territories, including in Jewish settlements and in Gaza. In April, after the protests started on the Israel-Gaza border fence, the prosecutor said that violence against civilians could constitute an international crime, as could the use of civilians "to defend military activity."

In recent months, Israel transferred – through a third party – materials to the international court that pertain to the 2014 Gaza War. Political and security officials have expressed concern that the court would open a criminal investigation, which would lead to a wave of lawsuits against those involved in Gaza, including the possibility that they would be arrested upon entering foreign countries.

In September, the Palestinian leadership petitioned the International Criminal Court, calling on the court to start legal procedures against the Israel over Israeli actions at the Khan al-Ahmar.

The Foreign Ministry said in response that "The prosecutor's office yearly report on its preliminary probes was just published and we are looking into it. As is well known, Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court and our clear stance is that the court does not have authority to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other things because the Palestinian Authority is not a state. We expect that the prosecutor will determine the same thing at the conclusion of the preliminary probe."