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ICC urged to launch investigation into Israeli crimes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An image grab taken from a video released on March 24, 2016, by Israeli non-governmental rights organization B'Tselem shows an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon before shooting in the head and killing a wounded Palestinian in the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron). (AFP)

Human Rights Watch has called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a formal investigation into serious Israeli crimes against the Palestinians over the past decades.

The HRW said in a statement Sunday that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda should carry out a formal probe consistent with the ICC’s Rome Statute.

ICC "shed light on the grave nature of many of the crimes and the pervasive climate of impunity for such offenses," the organization said, making the appeal on the anniversary of an Israeli war on Gaza in 2014.

“After nearly a half century of impunity, it’s time that those responsible for some of the gravest crimes pay the price,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division.

“The ICC prosecutor should move forward and investigate the crimes so that the victims can obtain a measure of justice that has long eluded them.”

Human Rights Watch, the UN and local and international human rights organizations have already said Israel’s latest war on the besieged Gaza Strip amounts to apparent war crimes.

Israel launched its 50-day onslaught on Gaza in early July 2014. The military aggression, which ended on August 26, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including over 570 children.

A Palestinian boy walks past a building, which was damaged during the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, during a winter storm in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza on January 24, 2016. (AFP)

Gaza has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Last June, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki submitted information to Bensouda’s office to help her better undertake the inquiry into the Israeli crimes. The ICC prosecutor was provided with further information on August 3 and October 30 that year.

Palestinian NGOs, including Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Aldameer, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, have also submitted several pieces of information to the ICC in order to be taken into consideration.

On Thursday, the ICC's prosecutor said Israel was holding discussions with the International Criminal Court over its inquiry into possible war crimes in the 2014 Gaza war. 

"Israel has agreed to engage with my office and we are exchanging information," Bensouda said during a visit to the UN in Geneva.

Until now, Israel has publicly declined all cooperation with the ICC on investigations related to its conflict with the Palestinians.

Among other Israeli crimes against Palestinians are the construction of illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank in defiance of international calls for a halt to the process.

A partial view taken on May 23, 2016, shows the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Homa (top) in East al-Quds. (AFP)

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank, excluding East al-Quds (Jerusalem), increased by about 14,000 in 2014.

A total of 1,177 Palestinians were made homeless as result Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and other buildings in the West Bank in 2014, and a further 757 Palestinians were displaced last year.

Israel started construction work on 1,913 new housing units in illegal settlements across the West Bank, not including East al-Quds, in 2015, and finished construction of 2,033 housing units there, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

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