As ICC Opens Investigation Into War Crimes, Bereaved Palestinians Hope for Justice

'I hope they take it seriously,' says mother of 21-year-old medic killed in Gaza ■ Israel's UN envoy: We could lobby the prosecutor to divert his focus

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The funeral procession for four boys killed on a beach in Gaza during an Israeli attack, in 2014.
The funeral procession for four boys killed on a beach in Gaza during an Israeli attack, in 2014.Credit: MOHAMMED ABED - AFP

Palestinians urged the International Criminal Court on Thursday to push ahead with a newly announced war crimes investigation in the Palestinian Territories which Israel has rejected.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing the court of antisemitism, described its decision to launch an investigation as "outrageous", telling Fox News: "I am going to fight this in every place."

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The court's outgoing prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said on Wednesday her office will formally investigate war crimes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem after the court accepted jurisdiction last month.

Her commitment to a "principled, non-partisan, approach" could see criminal investigations of Israel and of Palestinian militants, including the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Bensouda has identified the Israeli military's use of lethal and non-lethal force against Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza border fence after 2018 as one possible focus of the investigation.

One of those killed in the border protests was Raza Al-Najar, a 21-year-old volunteer medic shot by Israeli troops in June 2018 at a protest near Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Sabreen Al-Najar with the jacket her daughter Raza, a medic, was wearing when she was shot by Israeli soldiers in Gaza in 2018.Credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

Her mother welcomed the decision, calling it "a victory for (all) Palestinians".

"I hope the ICC achieves justice for my daughter, Raza, and for all other martyrs Israel has killed," Sabreen Al-Najar, 47, told Reuters. "I hope the court takes it seriously, and that it reveals the truth behind the Israeli occupation."

The Israeli military said Najar was killed inadvertently by Israeli troops after being struck by a bullet that ricocheted after being fired at someone it described as an "instigator" of violent riots.

It accused Hamas of using Palestinian civilians as human shields while armed militants attacked the border, trying to break through the fence. Israeli officials say there was no intention of shooting at Najar.

Rejecting the court's jurisdiction, Israel's UN ambassador said Israeli leaders might try to persuade the tribunal's newly elected prosecutor, Karim Khan of Britain, who takes office on June 15, to shift the ICC's focus.

Israel UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan with PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2020.Credit: POOL New/ REUTERS

The ICC investigation is "not logical or moral, and certainly shouldn't be the priority of a court that is supposed to discuss the greatest horrors perpetrated by regimes such as in Syria and Iran," the ambassador, Gilad Erdan, told Israel's Army Radio.

Erdan said the inquiry could put senior Israeli military officers, commanders and politicians under threat of arrest if they travelled abroad.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement on Thursday, calling the investigation a defence of "rights and freedoms" and saying it also covered the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

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