Last updated: 3 January, 2015

Israel mulls war crimes suits against top Palestinians

Israel is considering filing war crimes suits overseas against Palestinian leaders in response to their application to join the International Criminal Court and press such charges against the Jewish state, an official source said Saturday.

Legal proceedings at courts in the United States and elsewhere are being weighed against Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, his Palestinian Authority and other senior officials, the source close to the government told AFP.

He said that the basis of the complaints would be that Abbas’s partnership in a Palestinian consensus government with Hamas makes him complicit in the militant Islamist group’s rocket attacks from Gaza against civilians inside Israel.

“In recent days officials in Israel stressed that those who should be wary of legal proceedings are the heads of the PA who cooperate within the unity government with Hamas, a declared terrorist organisation which like the Islamic State (jihadist group) carries out war crimes — it fires at civilians from within population centres.”

The source, who declined to be identified, did not detail precisely where or when such proceedings could be launched.

The Palestinians formally presented a request to the United Nations on Friday to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move firmly opposed by Israel and the United States.

The move is part of a shift in strategy for the Palestinians, who are seeking to internationalise their campaign for statehood and move away from the stalled US-led negotiation process.

The US has branded the move to seek ICC membership “counterproductive” and warned it would only push the sides further apart.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to review the so-called instruments of accession and notify state members on the request within 60 days.

The Palestinian national consensus government took office in June following a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah movement, ending seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas remains the de facto power in the Gaza Strip and fought a bitter summer war with Israel, which took the lives of 73 people on the Israeli side and of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

According to Israeli government figures, Hamas fired 4,562 rockets during the fighting in July and August, reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.