The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Friday said she would launch a full investigation into war crimes at the Occupied Palestinian Territories as soon as the court's jurisdiction had been established, which opens the possibility of charges being filed against Israelis.
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"There is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation," Bensouda said and explained that the investigations would be carried out in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian authorities had long been demanding that the ICC investigate Israel's violent actions against civilians during protests known as "the March of Return," which began in 2018 and left at least 273 Palestinians dead and more than 16,000 injured.
"War crimes have been committed or are being committed... possible cases arising from the situation would be admissible", said Bensouda after analyzing the results of a preliminary assessment.
Nevertheless, Israel’s Attorney General Avijai Mandelblit argued that the Hague Court lacks jurisdiction concerning his country because "it is not part of the ICC." As expected, he also mentioned that any "Palestinian action is legally invalid" because Palestine is not a sovereign state.
"Israel and the Palestinians agreed to settle their dispute over the future of the territory in the framework of negotiations," Mandelblit said and argued that "the Palestinians would be violating that agreement if they go to the ICC."
The ICC Prosecutor Office conducts preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC's jurisdiction, such as Colombia, Darfur, Kenya, Libya, Myanmar, and Nigeria.
On Friday, Palestine's Foreign Ministry welcomed the ICC Prosecutor Office announcement given that it is "a long-overdue step to move the process forward towards an investigation, after nearly five long and difficult years of a preliminary examination."
The Israeli occupation of Palestinean territories began in June 1967 during the so-called "Six-Day War" when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.