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Rights groups present ICC with evidence of Israeli crimes on occupied land

A Palestinian Muslim woman heading to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem al-Quds’ Old City walks past Israeli forces on July 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Palestinian rights activists and lawyers have submitted a 700-page dossier to the International Criminal Court (ICC) contending that high-level Israeli officials are complicit in crimes, including apartheid, crimes against humanity and persecution in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

In a statement on Wednesday, the groups asked the ICC to “urgently open a full investigation into the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory” as a “necessary step to ending the culture of impunity that has long prevailed in regard to Israeli crimes and to hold high-level political and military officials accountable.”

The documents are meant to provide evidence for a preliminary investigation launched in 2015 by The Hague-based tribunal into Israeli crimes on the occupied land and pave the way for a full-scale probe.

Shawan Jabarin, director of Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, said the documents provide evidence that the regime in Tel Aviv removes Palestinians from the territories and replaces them with Israeli settlers.

“The communication to the International Criminal Court offers hope that anybody that commits crimes against Palestinians will be held to account,” Jabarin said. “We are convinced that there can be no lasting and genuine peace without justice.”

Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, called the transfer of Israeli settlers onto Palestinian territory “a unique war crime in that it is coupled with the confiscation of massive tracts of Palestinian land, the extensive destruction of Palestinian property, and the tearing apart of the Palestinian social fabric and way of life.”

Under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, anybody can send prosecutors details of alleged crimes, but that does not mean the court will open a full investigation. It is unclear how long the preliminary examination of the Palestinian case will take.

In the preliminary examination, ICC prosecutors are trying to whether there is ample ground for the launch of a formal full-scale investigation into Israeli crimes by Israel during and since the regime’s 50-day war against Gaza in 2014.

At his UN speech on Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to end Israel’s “apartheid” regime in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine," said Abbas while addressing the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

He further condemned Israel’s settlement activities, stressing that they are “everywhere” and are jeopardizing the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

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