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Hamas signs Palestinian application for ICC membership

Aug. 23, 2014 4:44 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 25, 2014 11:37 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Hamas has signed a proposal for the Palestinians to apply to join the International Criminal Court at which legal action could be taken against Israel, a senior official of the movement said Saturday.

"Hamas signed the document which (Palestinian) president (Mahmoud Abbas) put forth as a condition that all factions approve, before he goes to sign the Rome Statute, which paves the way for Palestine's membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC)," Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzouq wrote on his Facebook page.

The Palestinian declaration came after two days of talks in Qatar between Abbas and Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal, whose movement is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that the Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful force in Gaza, "is currently the only Palestinian faction that has not signed" the document.

"They are studying the possibility of signing," he added.

According to Erakat, "the document calls on president Abbas to sign the Rome Statute to join the ICC, and indicates all the signatories assume responsibility for this membership."

Israel has signed but not ratified the Rome Statute.

Based in The Hague, the ICC opened its doors in 2003 and is the world's first independent court set up to try the worst crimes, including genocide and war crimes.

Since the July 8 outbreak of the latest war in and around Gaza, Israel and Hamas have accused each other of war crimes amid a massive Israeli assault that has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and left more than 100,000 homeless.

68 Israelis have also died, all but four of whom were soldiers.

Joining the ICC would also expose Palestinian factions to possible prosecution.

The Palestinians had in 2009 asked the ICC's prosecutor's office to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli military in Gaza.

There has so far been no probe as Palestine is not an ICC member state and its status as a state is uncertain in some international institutions.

However, the Palestinians in late November 2012 obtained the status of observer state at the United Nations, opening the door for an ICC investigation.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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