Palestinians to submit first evidence to ICC over Israeli 'war crimes'

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is set to submit documentation regarding their accusations of Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the first time on Thursday, Palestinian officials have confirmed.

The documentation will include information about alleged crimes committed by Israel in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem since 14 June last year. The Palestinians controversially acceded to the ICC in April, in a further step in its 'diplomatic intifada' against Israel in international organisations.

A Palestinian delegation, headed by Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Maliki, will present two files to the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda after her request last month for further information of the Palestinian allegations, as opposed to the Palestinian's initiating their own official criminal complaint.

Israel was also requested to provide information by Bensouda but has declined to do so. Israeli officials argue that Palestine is not a recognised state and therefore there is no basis for the ICC to accept its complaint.

The information will allow Bensouda to decide whether a preliminary investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes should be opened, which could then move to a criminal investigation against specific Israeli individuals, who would stand accused of being responsible for such crimes if the case proceeded to that stage.

The files to be presented to the court will focus on alleged crimes committed by the Israeli leadership. These include settlement building in the West Bank, the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, the blockade on the Gaza Strip and attacks on the coastal enclave during last summer's 50-day conflict, a PA statement confirmed. It adds that the communication delivered to the ICC will highlight how a "widespread and systematic attack by Israeli leaders and agents is continually being perpetrated against the Palestinian people".

According to the United Nations, over 2,100 Palestinians were killed during last summer's conflict, of which at least 1,585 were civilians. The Israeli military says the war, which the Israel Defence Forces' (IDF) named Operation Protective Edge, was initiated to prevent militant rocket attacks against the country. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

A Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that the Palestinian delegation to the Hague is confident the compiled information will clearly show that Israel has committed crimes in the Palestinian Territories.

"We are confident that the information we are providing to the court is very clear in terms of commitment of crimes in the State of Palestine but also against the Rome Statute," the official says. "I think it is not disputable but we understand that it is a process."

"By sending the papers to the court we are showing our seriousness on that issue and that should be welcomed by everyone," the official adds. "We could make many communications to the court, this does not have to be the only one. What is important is that it is the first one."

The first submission of the information to the ICC may provoke a strong reaction from the Israeli leadership. In January, they froze collected Palestinian tax revenues after the Palestinians moved to join the international crime body.

This most recent move comes in the week that the UN Human Rights Council released a report on last summer's Gaza conflict, accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and saying that those responsible for such crimes be "brought to justice".