The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said Friday that she will launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
"I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine," Bensouda said in a statement, adding: "In brief, I am satisfied that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
The ICC launched a preliminary probe in 2015 into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The nearly five-year preliminary investigation has looked at the 2014 Gaza war which left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, the majority civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers. The issue is highly sensitive, with White House national security adviser John Bolton threatening last year to arrest ICC judges if they moved against Israel or the U.S. It has also looked at violence near the Israel-Gaza border in 2018. Earlier this month, the ICC prosecutor refused to press charges over a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla bringing aid to Gaza, and urged that probe to be shut. Nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara aid vessel, part of a flotilla traveling to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid, were killed on May 31, 2010, when Israeli troops stormed the vessel at sea before it reached the Palestinian territories. A 10th victim succumbed to his wounds in 2014 after being in a coma for years.
The ICC has the authority to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the 123 countries that have signed up to it. Israel and the U.S. have both refused to sign up to the court, which was set up in 2002 to be the only global tribunal trying the world's worst crimes. The Palestinians, who signed up to the ICC in 2015, have already accepted the court's jurisdiction but have repeatedly urged the court to move faster.