ICC delegation to probe war crime allegations in Israel this month

A delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to arrive in Israel later this month to review Palestinian allegations against Israeli forces of war crimes and crimes against humanity, to decide if there is enough evidence for a full investigation.

The team of investigators is to arrive in Israel to conduct the preliminary review of the claims on 27 June, Palestinian sources have confirmed to Israeli daily Haaretz. The delegation is to decide whether it is within the court's remit to investigate such claims.

The Israeli government has yet to comment on the delegation's planned visit but officials are confident that the Palestinian claim has no grounds because of the lack of a Palestinian state.

"Nothing about it testifies to the progress of the examination or its pace," a senior Israeli official told the media outlet.

"We will examine every request for a visit while taking into account all the relevant considerations, including Israel's position that Palestine is not a state and therefore the court has no authority to consider the Palestinian complaint," he added.

The ICC prosecutor's office released a statement about the delegation's trip, which said that the visit is routine, one which is carried out for all cases, and denied that a date had been arranged for the visit.

"As part of its preliminary examination activities, the Office of the Prosecutor conducts field visits as it has done in the past with other situations under preliminary examinations," the statement read.

"From the outset, the prosecutor has consistently made clear that the situation in Palestine will not be treated any differently from the others," it continued. "Therefore, the office as per normal practice, is considering a visit to the region during the course of its preliminary examination. Contrary to media reports, no date has been confirmed and further planning is required."

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki also confirmed today that he would travel to the Hague, the headquarters for the ICC, on 25 June. The Palestinian delegation, who joined the international court on 1 April, is set to present a series of files with their claims against Israeli actions in the occupied West Bank, including settlement building, and attacks in the Gaza Strip.

Israel deeply opposed the Palestinian move to join the ICC and is yet to become a member of the international body. However, the ICC now has jurisdiction over all alleged crimes committed by Palestinian citizens, including those of Islamist militant group Hamas, who are likely to come under scrutiny if an investigation is launched into alleged Israeli crimes.

The Palestinian decision to join the ICC is part of the Palestinian Authority's 'diplomatic intifada' against Israel, by signing up to a number of international conventions to oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As part of this initiative, the Palestinian FA also proposed a vote on Israel's Fifa membership last month, before backing down at the last moment.

In last summer's Gaza conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians - mostly civilians - were killed, according to Palestinian sources, and 72 Israelis - all but five soldiers - were killed, according to Israeli sources.

The death toll led to accusations from rights groups that the use of force by the Israeli military displayed a "callous indifference" than what was required to prevent militant rocket fire while Palestinian militants were themselves accused of war crimes.

A representative from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office was not immediately available to comment.