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Israel discusses Gaza war crimes with ICC prosecutor

June 4, 2016 6:05 P.M. (Updated: June 5, 2016 5:04 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have held discussions with representatives of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an ICC prosecutor announced on Thursday, agreeing to meet with the court after months of publicly refusing to cooperate with Palestinian attempts at charging Israel with war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that Israel “has agreed to engage with my office and we are exchanging information,” during a visit to the United Nations office in Geneva on Thursday, Reuters news agency reported.

Israeli representatives reportedly transferred information to the court regarding the 2014 war in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to news outlet the Times of Israel.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel's foreign minister, was quoted by the Hebrew-language news site Wallah as saying, “there hasn’t been any change to Israel’s position. Israel does not accept that the ICC has the jurisdiction to discuss the issue. As has been said before, Israel is dialoguing with the office of the ICC prosecutor about the issue of lack of ICC jurisdiction.”

Palestine formally joined the ICC in January to enable them to submit war crimes and crimes against humanity complaints against the Israeli government.

On Jauary 16, Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed against Palestinians during last year's Gaza war, which left at least 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead in the 50-day conflict.

Bensouda has also opened preliminary investigations on crimes committed against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014.

The Israeli government has consistently refused to cooperate or engage with the international court, with Israeli Major General Dan Efrony stating in February that "our agenda is not set by the ICC, we examine and investigate what should be investigated. We are a state that is willing and able to investigate and indict anyone that does something wrong."

However, despite opening over a dozen criminal investigations into incidents which transgressed during the war -- including the shelling of a UN school on July 24 that killed at least 15 people -- and taking testimony from a number of Palestinians in Gaza, no indictments have been filed through the Israeli justice system.

Israel has stated that the ICC does not have jurisdiction to carry out investigations in the occupied Palestinian territory, as the country is not a signatory of the Rome Statute that allows for ICC jurisdiction.

However, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute, he gave the ICC jurisdiction to investigate war crimes committed by both Israeli and Palestinian individuals within the Palestinian territory.
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