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ICC urged to investigate Israel settlement expansion on Palestinian land

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)
Palestine Liberation Organization's Secretary General Saeb Erekat (Photo by AFP)

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has strongly condemned Israel’s recent decision to construct hundreds of new settler units in the occupied West Bank, calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the case of the “Israeli criminals” behind the land grab, among other atrocities against Palestinians.

“The ICC is not a court for states, but for individuals. Those who carry out such crimes, namely [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, and those involved in settlement activity, killings, closures, sieges and ethnic cleansing are all known,” the PLO’s secretary general, Saeb Erekat, said in an exclusive interview with Arabic-language Voice of Palestine radio station on Tuesday.

The ICC should “open an investigation with Israeli criminals who are committing the crimes of settlements on Palestinian territory,” he added.

He urged the international community to come up with mechanisms aimed at implementing United Nations Security Council resolutions, which condemn Israel’s settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

Erekat further noted that there are 12 Security Council resolutions in condemnation of the Israeli regime’s settlement expansion activities and its expropriation of Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian leadership has submitted three formal referrals to the ICC, seated in The Hague in the Netherlands, to investigate Israeli crimes, and there are two cases before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel, the senior Palestinian official pointed out.

“There are four Security Council resolutions, demanding international protection for our people… There are also issues before the Human Rights Council that the international community should implement,” Erekat highlighted.

Netanyahu said on Monday that construction of some 840 new settlement units would begin in Ariel settlement in response to an attack that left an Israeli soldier and a rabbi dead.

Last month, Ir Amim, an Israeli NGO opposing Tel Aviv’s settlement expansion activities, published a new map that illustrated an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground in the most historically contested and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem [al-Quds]: the Old City and adjacent ring of Palestinian neighborhoods,” which help reinforcement of settlement plans.

The NGO pointed to a number of Israeli-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighborhoods, including “settler initiated evictions of Palestinians, takeovers of their homes, and the expansion of settler compounds,” in addition to the use of the so-called “touristic settlement sites” as “key points” contributing to the campaigns.

Ir Amim said the supposed tourism and archaeology projects “assume a central role in Israeli settlement policy.”

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

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council in December 2016 adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including 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.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

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