MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) - Hamas has declared its support for the Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), Associated Press reports citing two senior Hamas officials.
If Palestine becomes ICC member, it can call for the investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the region. However, the court will be able to examine the actions of the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as Hamas or any other Palestinian group.
On Saturday, Izzat Rishq, a senior Hamas official, said that Israel and not Hamas is likely to be the target of the ICC probe. In a phone interview from Qatar he stated that Hamas “fighters are defending their people” from Israeli occupation and daily assaults. "These rockets are meant to stop Israeli attacks and it is well known that Israel initiated this war and previous wars," he added, as quoted by the AP.
Earlier in August, Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, announced that Palestine considered joining the ICC because “Israel has left us with no other option”, according to the Guardian.
Malki insisted that Israel was violating international law. “Everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity,” the Palestinian foreign minister said, as quoted by Reuters.
Malki stated that Palestinians could build the case without difficulty. “Evidence is there for people to see and collect,” he added.
Israel has repeatedly spoken against Palestine joining the ICC. Western powers, notably the United States, have tried to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas into abandoning the ICC bid.
It remains unclear whether Abbas will sign the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty. If he does, the move is likely to damage Abbas’ relations with Israel and the United States.
Moreover, both Israel and Palestine are expected to be affected by the ICC investigation in case it is launched. According to a UN team researching the previous round of Israel-Hamas fighting, both sides violated international law by targeting civilians.
Abbas said that he would not sign accession documents until he received formal pledges of support from all Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a militant organization in Palestine. Palestine Liberation Organization confirmed that it supported the bid last month.
Palestine could not join the ICC prior to it receiving a non-member observer status in the UN in 2012.
The ICC currently doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.
Hamas’ announcement comes after the latest temporary ceasefire broke down on Tuesday.
The fighting that started on July 8 claimed the lives of at least 2,090 Palestinians and over 60 people on the Israeli side. According to a senior UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official, at least 469 children have been killed and over 3,000 injured in Gaza. Over 292,000 internally displaced Palestinians currently live in the UN schools, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).