International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda expressed concern Wednesday over the escalation of violence in East Jerusalem and around Gaza, warning of potential violations under the Rome Statute.
The hostilities have escalated after the Israeli government launched an aerial attack in Gaza, killing at least 50 people, including several Hamas senior members. The source of the conflict was the controversial planned evictions of Palestinian families in Jerusalem as well as movement restrictions at East Jerusalem right as Ramadan began. Experts on the matter have expressed concern that the ongoing conflict could turn into a “full-scale war.”
Bensouda already launched a formal investigation into potential Israeli war crimes in Palestinian territories in April. This investigation named both the Israeli Defence Force and Hamas as possible culprits. Israel has challenged the ICC’s investigation, calling it “undiluted anti-Semitism and the height of hypocrisy.” The investigation was also opposed by the US government, with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stating that “the ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction.”
During May, more than 200 prominent Israelis signed a letter to the ICC. The group, which includes scientists and several Nobel Prize laureates, requested that the court engage with human rights groups for the investigation instead of the Israeli government. The letter states:
Sadly, despite Israel’s image as a state that maintains a proper and professional legal system, the reality paints a different picture–harsh, discriminatory, and outrageous. The law imposed on the Occupied Territories and the manner in which it is applied by the Israeli enforcement and security agencies effectively allow ongoing acts of moral injustice and prima facie war crimes.
Since Israel is not a member of the ICC, the court has no jurisdiction to conduct investigations on Israeli territories.