International Criminal Court
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A delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) this week, its chief prosecutor said Wednesday, against the backdrop of a probe into the 2014 Gaza war.

The trip from Wednesday until October 10 will be the first to the region by officials from the prosecutor's office at the ICC since the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.

But chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was quick to stress the trip was "not linked" to her preliminary examination into the war launched last year which "is ongoing".

The team will travel to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, Bensouda said in a statement quoted by AFP, and hold "meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials at the working levels."

She made no mention of whether the delegation would travel to Gaza.

At the request of the PA, Bensouda's office opened an initial probe into alleged war crimes by both sides during the July-August 2014 conflict.

The PA officially joined the ICC on April 1, 2015, and immediately filed a series of legal complaints with the court. In addition to claiming that Israel committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war, it also claimed that Israeli “settlements” are “an ongoing war crime”.

Following Bensouda’s announcement, Hamas criticized the decision not to visit Gaza.

"Not to visit the Gaza is an insult to the victims of Israeli terrorism," said Fawzy Barhoum, the spokesperson for Hamas in Gaza.

"The delegation should do its duty and travel to Gaza to see the scene of the crime, to hear from witnesses and to understand the reality of Israeli crimes against Gaza's civilians," he told AFP.

Bensouda, who is believed not to be accompanying the team, said the aim of the "visit will be to undertake outreach and education activities with a view to raising awareness about the ICC and in particular, about the work of the office".

The delegation "will not engage in evidence collection in relation to any alleged crimes," she added.

"Neither will the delegation undertake site visits, or assess the adequacy of the respective legal systems to deal with crimes that fall within ICC jurisdiction."

Israel vehemently opposes any ICC investigation, but officials have said they will cooperate with the body to convince it of the competence of the state's own courts.

The ICC team will also visit UN agencies, and intends to give television and newspaper interviews in both Israel and the Palestinian PA, according to AFP.