International Criminal Court investigates Israel for war crimes on Gaza border

The International Criminal Court says Israel, as well as Hamas, may be guilty of war crimes at the Gaza border.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court raised concerns Sunday that Israel and Hamas may have committed war crimes during a current flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Fatou Bensouda’s office expressed “grave concern” over the shootings of Palestinians by Israeli troops during mass protests along Gaza’s border with Israel.

Her office said that Israel’s “violence against civilians — in a situation such as one prevailing in Gaza” may constitute war crimes. But in an apparent reference to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, she also said “the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities” could also be a war crime.

Bensouda is already in the midst of a “preliminary examination” of possible war crimes, launched in the wake of a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. That is the first step toward a formal war crimes investigation.

“While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my office’s scrutiny,” she said. “This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident.”

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Palestinian health officials say at least 31 people have been killed by Israeli fire, including 25 people killed during protests. The IDF has released the identity of several of the casualties who were affiliated with Hamas and other Islamic terror groups.

Israel says the “protests” are a smoke screen for attacks on its troops and attempts to breach the border fence. It says terrorists have attempted to carry out shootings, plant bombs or infiltrate the fence, and that its snipers have only fired at “instigators” trying to carry out attacks.

Witness accounts and amateur videos have shown some demonstrators appeared to be unarmed or far from the fence when they were shot. The European Union and United Nations have called for an independent investigation into the incidents.

The Israeli military accused Hamas of releasing videos that were either incomplete, edited or “completely fabricated.” It said troops had followed strict rules of engagement and that protesters were putting themselves in “harm’s way” by operating in a dangerous area.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has rejected international calls for an investigation, saying IDF troops had acted appropriately and fired only at Palestinian protesters who posed a threat and at terrorists.

Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group that calls for Israel’s destruction, has called for a series of protests until May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s founding, which Palestinians observe as “Nakba” (Catastrophe) Day.