ICC Heads to Israel to Probe 'War Crimes'

Palestinians claim visit is good sign ICC is serious about their report, but Israeli official says visit is routine for preliminary probe.

Cynthia Blank,

The courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague
The courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague

A delegation from the International Criminal Court will arrive in Israel on June 27, senior Palestinian sources alleged, as part of the ICC prosecutor's preliminary probe into possible Israeli "war crimes."

According to a Haaretz report on Thursday, the sources say Palestinian Authority leaders were recently informed of the delegation's visit, the purpose of which is to determine if there is basis to the PA's claims against Israel and grounds to prosecute.

While an attorney advising the Palestinians told Haaretz the visit was a good sign as ICC delegations do not often come to the countries they are examining, the ICC prosecutor's office stressed the visit was part of the usual examination process. 

A senior Israeli official dealing with the probe concurred, arguing the visit is routine for such preliminary investigations and that "nothing about it testifies to the progress of the examination or its pace."

While Israel has so far declined to respond to the prosecution's threatening request for information, the official insisted discussions would be held on the matter in the coming days.

“We will examine every request for a visit while taking into account all the relevant considerations, including Israel’s position that Palestine is not a state and therefore the court has no authority to consider the Palestinian complaint.”

The Palestinians, who officially joined the international body on April 1, will, meanwhile, present the ICC's prosecution team on June 25 with two files containing detailed claims of Israeli military activity in Judea-Samaria and Gaza over the past year. 

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki will head the delegation of Palestinian officials to The Hague to hand deliver the files to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. 

Palestinian sources claimed to Haaretz that the proximity of the PA's trip with the delegation's visit to Israel is purely coincidental. 

Should the prosecution decide to launch a full-scale investigation, it is likely they will not just examine PA allegations of Israeli "war crimes," but also Palestinian actions, such as the spate of terror attacks that struck Israel in the past year.