Palestinians Ask International Criminal Court to Investigate Israel's 'Grave Crimes'

PA tells court 'there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes to warrant an immediate investigation' into Israel's settlements, Israel calls it a 'cynical step without legal validity'

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki holds up a copy of the International Criminal Court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, after a ceremony welcoming the Palestinians as the court's newest member in The Hague, April 1, 2015.
AP

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki has asksed the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel's "grave crimes" and called on prosecutors there to open an immediate investigation into Israel's settlements in the Palestinian territories.

The Foreign Ministry blasted the move calling it "a cynical step without legal validity."

According to a Palestinian statement, the so-called "referral" that Malki is handing to the court's prosecutors on Tuesday underscores "that there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes to warrant an immediate investigation."

Malki was accompanied by a police escort and ushered into the ICC where he was met with staffers at the door. He didn't say anything upon entering.

The ICC has been conducting a preliminary probe since 2015 into alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories, including Israel's settlement policy and crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict.

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"It is absurd that the Palestinian actions vis-à-vis the Court come at a time when the Palestinians continue to incite to acts of terrorism, while exploiting women and children as human shields for violent attacks against the security of Israel's citizens," the Foreign Ministry said in statement.

The harshly worded statement added that the "ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, since Israel is not a member of the Court and because the Palestinian Authority is not a state."

The UN human rights body on Friday called for an international inquiry into the state of human rights in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, calling out Israel for its killings of protesters in the Strip. Jerusalem blasted the decision and the council as being biased against Israel.

The special session of the Human Rights Council was convened after the bloodiest day for Palestinians in years last Monday, when 60 were killed by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations that Israel said included attempts to breach its frontier fence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ripped into the UN organization, saying that "the body that calls itself the human rights council has once again proven that it is a hypocritical and biased organization whose goal is to harm Israel and support terrorism. More than anything, it shows how irrelevant it is. Israel blatantly rejects this anti-Israel decision and will continue to defend its citizens and soldiers as part of our right to self-defense."

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The council voted 29-2 with 14 abstentions to back a resolution that also condemned "the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians." The "independent, international commission of inquiry" mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.

"Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week," UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told the Council. 

He said Israeli forces had killed 106 Palestinians, including 15 children, since March 30. More than 12,000 were injured, at least 3,500 by live ammunition. Israel is an occupying power under international law, obliged to protect the people of Gaza and ensure their welfare, he said.

"They [Gazans] are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanized by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest," al-Hussein said.  

Israel says the deaths took place in protests organized by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, which intentionally provoked the violence, an accusation Hamas denies.