The International Criminal Court said it was investigating alleged war crimes by both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a senior official in the prosecutor’s office.
However, an ICC official said that so far Hamas has refused its delegation entry into the Gaza Strip during their current visit to Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday. Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the ICC prosecutor’s office on jurisdictional issues, stated that the ICC would like to visit Gaza but that “it was not possible this time,” due to the short visit and “security concerns.” He did not elaborate on those concerns.
Hamas issued an angry diatribe, accusing the ICC of having “surrendered to the dictates of the Israelis, [allowing] it (Israel) to take control over the agenda of its visit, which did not include the Gaza Strip, the primary theater of the Israeli crimes in 2014.”
“Hamas considers the visit of the ICC delegation to be meaningless and useless,” since it will not focus exclusively on Israeli conduct in the war, as they had originally believed it would.
The ICC launched its probe in January, months after the Palestinians joined the body and recognized its jurisdiction.
As the probe moves closer to possible criminal investigations, suspected war criminals from the Palestinian side could be named in future indictments.
“(It) has been made clear from the start for the Palestinians that the court is going to independently and impartially investigate allegations from all sides,” Mochochoko said. “So it is not anything new to them that we are going to be investigating them as well.”
Mochochoko’s delegation is in Israel on a six-day visit. He branded a meeting with Israeli officials as “cordial,” but clarified the Israeli side did not provide information related to the probe.
Mochochoko declined to speculate about the number of cases the probe might find or how long the process would take, but said the office was working through “a large volume” of information.
The preliminary examination does not include collecting evidence or hearing testimony from witnesses.
Israel is not obliged to abide by any of the tribunal’s findings since it is not a member of the court. It says its own justice system is capable of investigating any possible wrongdoing by its troops.
Israel has had no public comment on the ICC visit, though officials are “so far satisfied that Mochochoko and his team have stuck to the agreed-upon plan of emphasizing the visit’s educational and outreach components,” as opposed to any investigatory work, the Post said.