Judges at the International Criminal Court has found the court has jurisdiction over war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, paving the way for a possible criminal investigation, despite Israeli objections.
The decision prompted swift reactions from Israel, which is not a member of the court and rejects its jurisdiction, and the Palestinian Authority, which welcomed the ruling.
The United States objected to the decision.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office was studying the decision and would decide what to do next “guided strictly by its independent and impartial mandate” to prosecute grave war crimes and atrocities when countries are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.
The ICC judges said their decision was based on Palestine having been granted membership to the tribunal’s founding treaty, and had referred the situation to the court.
The judges said the jurisdiction decision did not imply any attempt to determine Palestinian statehood or national borders.
“The court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine … extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” they said.
Ms Bensouda had found in December 2019 that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.
She named the Israeli Defence Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.
She said then she saw no reason not to open an investigation but asked judges to rule on whether the situation fell under the court’s jurisdiction.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the decision, saying in a video statement “when the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-semitism.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry said it was a “historic day for the principle of accountability”.