Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud AbbasSTR/Flash 90

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is to apply immediately to join the International Criminal Court, senior officials said Wednesday, after the UN Security Council rejected a resolution to recognize the PA as a "Palestinian state".

Abbas will sign the Rome Statute later Wednesday, adhering to the founding treaty of the ICC, where the Palestinians could potentially sue Israeli officials for war crimes, several top officials told AFP.

Meanwhile, the PA is to meet Wednesday over the next steps in its campaign for statehood after the failed UN bid.

Abbas was to gather with top officials in his base of Ramallah at 1630 GMT and brief them on his plans in a speech to be broadcast live by PA television.

Meanwhile the PA's unity partner Hamas responded sharply, with Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum responded to the UN vote, telling AFP "this was a unilateral decision taken by Abu Mazen (Abbas) who has taken the Palestinian decision-making process hostage." He called it a "new failure" by Abbas.

The PA had warned that if the resolution failed, they would seek to join international organizations including the International Criminal Court, and seek to sue Israel. Such a move would be a direct violation of previous agreements signed with Israel.

The text's failure had been likely ever since the Palestinians unveiled a first draft in September which drew strong US opposition for setting a 12-month deadline for reaching a peace deal and 2017 as the date by which Israel would have to cede Judea and Samaria, expelling all Jewish residents and withdrawing its military presence.  

In the event, the resolution failed to secure the necessary nine votes in the 15-member council to pass and Washington was spared the diplomatic embarrassment with Arab allies of wielding its veto.

The Palestinians have had the option of applying for membership of the ICC and a raft of UN agencies since late 2012 when it won recognition as a UN observer state.

But they had agreed to hold off during nine months of abortive US-brokered peace negotiations with Israel that collapsed in mutual recrimination in April.

The apparent decision to turn to the ICC could backfire, however. By joining the Rome Statute the Palestinian Authority - and particularly Hamas - will also be exposed to potential Israeli lawsuits for war crimes including the deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians and use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

In a recent interview, the PA's envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) admitted the PA has no hope of pressing charges against Israel in international courts - because Palestinian terrorist groups are far worse violators of international law themselves.