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Palestinians submit request to join ICC

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Fatah movement, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 31, 2014
Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Fatah movement, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 31, 2014 AFP / Abbas Momani

The Palestinians submitted documents to the United Nations to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday, a high-stakes move that will soon enable them to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel.

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The Palestinians are moving to join the court after suffering a defeat in the UN Security Council, which rejected a resolution that would have set a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.

Israel has threatened retaliation if the Palestinians join the court, and the United States has also vehemently opposed the move as an obstacle to hopes of reaching an Israeli-Palestinians peace deal.

The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, delivered the documents – known as instruments of ratification – to Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Stephen Mathias on Friday morning.

The ICC has recognised the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as an observer state. Handing over the paperwork is the last formal step for Palestine to become a member of the ICC, which would take at least 60 days.

Riyad Mansour: 'We will seek justice for Israeli war crimes'

“This is a very significant step,” Mansour told reporters after delivering the documents. “It is an option that we are seeking in order to seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”

War crimes

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced his intentions to make a bid to join the ICC on Wednesday, a day after the UN’s rejection of the resolution on Palestinian statehood.

Abbas is under heavy pressure to take stronger action against Israel after a 50-day war between the Jewish state and militants in Gaza over the summer.

At the international court, the Palestinians could seek to have Israeli military or political figures prosecuted for alleged crimes involving settlement construction on occupied lands or actions by the military that cause heavy civilian casualties, for instance.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily after Abbas’s announcement, saying it was the Palestinian side that should be held responsible for “war crimes”.

“The one who needs to fear the International Criminal Court in the Hague is the Palestinian Authority, which has a unity government with Hamas – a terror organisation like (the Islamic State group) which commits war crimes,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

The United States has said it also strongly opposes the move, with State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez warning it would be “counter-productive and do nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign and independent state”.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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