U.S. Blasts ICC's Launch of Probe Into Possible War Crimes in Palestinian Territories

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, December 10, 2014.Credit: AP

The U.S. State Department said it "strongly disagrees" with the International Criminal Court's launching of an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories late on Friday.

The United States has argued that Palestine is not a state and therefore not eligible to join the ICC.

"We strongly disagree with the ICC prosecutor's action," spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement. "The place to resolve the differences between the parties is through direct negotiation, not unilateral actions by either side."

In a statement on Friday, prosecutors said they would examine "in full independence and impartiality" crimes that may have occurred since June 13 last year. This allows the court to delve into the war between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza in July-August 2014 during which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has confirmed the Palestinians - whose peace talks with Israel have collapsed - will formally become an ICC member on April 1 at their request, a move strongly opposed by Israel and the United States.

"The case is now in the hands of the court," said Nabil Abuznaid, head of the Palestinian delegation in The Hague. "It is a legal matter now and we have faith in the court system."
Prosecutors will assess evidence of alleged crimes and determine if they are of sufficient gravity and scale to warrant charges against individuals on either side.

The examination was branded as "an outrage" by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Israel completely rejects the ICC prosecutor's announcement about opening a preliminary examination on the basis of the outrageous request by the Palestinian Authority," he said in a written statement.

"The Palestinian Authority is not a country and therefore it is not the court's place, also according to its own rules, to carry out an examination like this."

The ICC has been criticized for focusing on atrocities in Africa and being unable to successfully prosecute cases linked to the world's most intractable conflicts.

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