Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda announced that she is conducting a preliminary probe into allegations of crimes in the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reports. After almost two weeks of protest, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured by Israeli forces, according to Al Arabiya. In response, on March 8, Bensouda called for an end to the increasing violence in the region.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was introduced in 2002 to investigate the highest of crimes, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Al Jazeera explains that an ICC preliminary examination occurs in the early phases of a case and is used to determine whether a crime committed is serious enough to warrant a full international investigation.
The ICC is launching its second preliminary investigation into the alleged crimes of the Israeli army in Palestinian territory. The first investigation was conducted in January 2015 following Palestine’s membership into the court. Although Israel is not a member of the ICC, its citizens can still be tried for committing a crime on ICC member state territory.
Israel has received criticism since its handling of the recent border protests in the Gaza Strip. The recent protests have been peaceful and will continue until May 15. The six weeks of protests will end on Nakba Day, the day after Israeli Independence Day, to symbolize the displacement experienced by Palestinians after Israeli independence.
In response to the mass protests, Israeli forces opened fire on protesters. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, at least 30 people have been killed and hundreds injured. This is not the first time Israel has been accused of using excessive force, the most recent case having been the 2014 Israeli-Gaza conflict, during which 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, according to Reuters.
Al Arabiya reports that in response to the accusations, Israel has stated that Hamas, the Islamic movement that has fought three wars with Israel in the Gaza Strip, is using the protest as a front to commit violent acts. In order to counter this, Israeli soldiers are ordered to open fire whenever protesters near the border fence.
The protest committee replied by encouraging protesters to “keep dozens of meters away [from the fence]so as not to give the soldiers any excuse to shoot at the participants,” Haaretz reports.
Following increased violence in the Gaza Strip, Bensouda reminded all parties that “the situation in Palestine is under preliminary examination. She warned that any alleged crimes will be examined and may lead to a full investigation.
“Violence against civilians – in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” Bensouda said.
According to Al Arabiya, Bensouda went on to say that she will record “any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force” by either side in the conflict.
The recent events unfolding in the Gaza Strip have received increasing attention from parties across the globe. The Arab League convened for a special session and approved a resolution to support the call for investigations into Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip.
Al Arabiya reports that the European Union questioned whether Israeli troops engaged in “proportionate use of force.” They also asked for clarification as to whether Palestinians attempted to damage or cross the border and whether there was any violence that warranted an Israeli response.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights claimed that the individuals killed or wounded were unarmed, posed no threat, and in some cases were running away from the soldiers and border.
Despite numerous calls for a United Nations probe into the case, RT reports, the United Nations Security Council failed to pass a resolution for the investigation after the United States vetoed in a 14-1 vote.