The International Criminal Court (ICC) has commenced a preliminary investigation into Israel’s crimes and settlement activities in the Palestinian territories, a senior Palestinian official said Monday.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Monday that The Hague-based court also started investigating “war crimes” committed by Israel during the latest offensive on the Gaza Strip.
“In international legal terms, Palestine is a country under occupation,” Erekat told The Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
“This occupied country is composed of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” he said.
According to Erekat, Palestine can join up to 523 organizations and international treaties and protocols.
“We have the right to practice our rights,” he said.
Erekat said that some international players, including the United States, had tried to prevent the Palestinians from resorting to the ICC.
“To them we say: we are the victims,” Erekat said. “Those who fear to be brought to justice should stop committing their crimes,” he added.
Preparations are being made in The Hague to officially celebrate the admission of Palestine as the court’s 123rd member.
On Dec. 31 of 2014, an Arab draft resolution seeking a deadline for ending the Israeli occupation, failed to win the nine votes needed to pass, with the U.S. – Israel’s longstanding, veto-wielding ally – voting against the proposal.
Hours later, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed an application to join 18 international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the ICC.
International law considers the West Bank and East Jerusalem occupied territories captured by Israel in 1967, deeming all construction of Jewish settlements on the land illegal.
Since its establishment 66 years ago, Israel has continued to misappropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank – on which it continues to build Jewish-only settlements – in breach of international law.
Palestinians, for their part, demand the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.