ICC’s continuing probe into “situation in Palestine” marks milestone in history of Palestine-Israeli conflict

– International Criminal Court (ICC) chief’s decision to continue full investigation into “situation in Palestine” may represent a milestone in the history of Palestine-Isreali conflict, according to analysts.

ICC Cheif Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda submitted an application to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC and requested a judgment regarding the geographical jurisdiction of the Palestinian territories.

Bensouda announced in a video clip that “depending on an objective analysis of all available data regarding the situation in Palestine … it was ready to open an investigation.”

“I am convinced that war crimes were committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the Gaza Strip,” Bensouda said, adding “there is a reasonable basis for continuing to investigate the situation in Palestine.”

The Palestinians have largely welcomed Bensouda’s declaration amid heavy criticism and anger of both Israel and the U.S. administration. Israel is not a member of the ICC, where Israeli officials said that the Palestinians can’t sue Israel for any war crimes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision of Bensouda “is a big shame and a black day in the history of truth and justice,” according to Israeli media.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Ishtaye said that ICC’s decision “is a major and remarkable shift in dealing with Israeli violations against the Palestinians,” adding that his government will make every legal effort to hold Israel accountable.

Islamic Hamas movement announced in a press statement that it is ready to facilitate the missions of any ICC committee or commission and expressed readiness for cooperation by providing all needed documents and proofs to charge Israel.

Eassam Younis, expert in international law and director of al-Mizan Rights Group in Gaza, said Bensouda’s decision “is a great achievement, but at the same time it needs lots of work and lots of cautions.”

“The Palestinians should start legal professional work in preparation for the criminal court’s Pre-Trial Chamber deliberations on geographical jurisdiction,” Younis told Xinhua.

In late December 2014, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents of joining 20 international treaties, including the Rome Treaty, which paved the road for the Palestinians to join the ICC and become a member in April 2015.

Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman in Gaza said in a press statement that the American opposition to the ICC’s decision “is an insistence to provide a cover and encourage the occupation (Israel) to commit more crimes.”

The PA has previously submitted files to the ICC on settlement issues, the large-scale Israeli war on the Gaza Strip in 2014, and the file of Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian human rights organizations have also submitted several similar reports.

Bassem Al-Khalidi, a Palestinian expert in United Nations affairs, said that “Israel together with Washington’s support, will try to portray international criminal steps as a political and anti-Semitic issue.”

“This is why the Palestinian and the Arab sides should continue to focus on the fact that ICC’s decision is a legal decision that is related to the (Israel’s) occupation and its crimes, and that Palestine is a human rights issue consistent with the international law,” he told Xinhua.

Mukhaimar Abu Sa’da, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that the decision of the ICC “is important and inaugurates a critical stage in the history of the conflict with Israel.”

Abu Sa’da pointed out that the investigation of the ICC will face major challenges, including those related to Israel’s suspicion of the PA’s status as a sovereign state, and also proving the jurisdiction of ICC on the Palestinian territories.

Abu Sa’da said he believes that the ICC is supposed to start as soon as possible direct investigations into Israeli crimes for violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, which considers the Palestinian territories occupied territory.

“There are many files that can be brought before the international justice to condemn Israel, such as settlement expansion, house demolitions, eviction of Palestinians, torture in prisons, as well as crimes against civilians,” said Abu Sa’da.