Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to launch a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, saying it is absurd. Speaking in West Jerusalem on Saturday, a day after the decision was made, Netanyahu said: "It's absurd of the ICC to ignore international law and agreements under which the Palestinians don't have a state and can only get one through direct negotiations with Israel."
The rules of the ICC are clear: No state, no standing, no case." The United States joined Israel in condemning the ICC decision to open a preliminary probe into possible war crimes committed against Palestinians, blasting it as a "tragic irony". ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office would conduct an "analysis in full independence and impartiality" into alleged war crimes by Israel, including those committed during last year's Gaza offensive.
Her decision comes after Palestine formally joined the ICC earlier this month, allowing it to lodge war crimes and crimes against humanity complaints against Israel as of April. The US criticized the decision late Friday, saying it opposed actions against Israel at the ICC as "counterproductive to the cause of peace."
"It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC," US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said in a statement.
Israel is lobbying member-states of ICC to cut funding for the tribunal in response to its launch of an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, officials said on Sunday. However, ICC prosecutors said on Friday they would examine "in full independence and impartiality" crimes that may have occurred since June 13 last year.
A preliminary examination is not an investigation, but weighs information about possible crimes and jurisdiction issues to establish whether a full investigation is merited. A report released by Amnesty International in November accused the Israeli military of committing war crimes in Gaza during attacks on the Gaza Strip this past summer that left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead.
The group investigated eight cases and said in the report: "In the eight cases documented by Amnesty International in this report, Israeli aircraft dropped aerial bombs on or launched missiles at homes they knew or should have known had civilians inside. The attacks resulted in the deaths of at least 111 individuals, including at least 104 civilians, and injured many others. Some 34 apartments and neighboring houses, home to more than 150 people, were destroyed or badly damaged in these attacks."
Palestine's ICC membership is of crucial importance internationally. Palestine aims to bring human rights violations and war crimes committed by Israeli troops to the court since Israeli actions remain unpunished despite many reports by the U.N. or independent nongovernmental organizations that have shown that Israel committed war crimes several times. The Palestinian permanent observer at the U.N., Riyad Mansour, submitted the official application to join ICC to the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in December.
The killing of civilians raises concerns over Israel's apparent breaches of human rights and international law against the people of Gaza. During Israel's deadly assault on Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians faced a deteriorating humanitarian situation. The Israeli military offensive caused many Palestinians to seek refuge in safer areas.
Apart from the death toll, at least 425,000 displaced people in the Gaza Strip are in emergency shelters, according to the United Nations and nearly 12,000 homes were destroyed or partially damaged during Israeli raids.