Palestinian human rights groups delivered new evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes to an international prosecutor Monday.
The new evidence was handed to International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda by four human rights organizations: Al-Haq, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Al-Mezan, and Aldameer.
“We have provided the Office of the Prosecutor with enough information for it to determine that there is a reasonable basis to believe that senior Israeli military and civilian officials committed crimes against humanity and war crimes during the offensive against Gaza (in 2014),” said Shawan Jabarin, the director of Al-Haq.
Jabarin added, “We are confident that the information now at the disposal of the Office of the Prosecutor is sufficient to open an investigation, and urge her to act quickly to begin a formal investigation.”
The human rights groups allege that the evidence shows Israeli forces involved in last year's offensive against Gaza intentionally targeted civilians, and inflicted massive, unnecessary collateral damage on the enclave's infrastructure.
Israeli forces are also accused of torture.
The new submissions to the ICC were welcomed by the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which is affiliated with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
“The ICC was created precisely for the purpose of ensuring criminal accountability for crimes on the scale of those committed against the civilian population of Gaza last year during the so-called 'Operation Protective Edge' —a 51-day military offensive against the Palestinian population of occupied Gaza,” the CCR stated.
“It is vital for the integrity of this international court that its judicial independence be respected as it considers the evidence presented today. Ongoing impunity for those who ordered and carried out an assault that killed more than 1,540 Palestinian civilians, including 556 children, makes clear that the ICC, as the court of last resort, represents the only hope for justice for Palestinians,” the organization explained.
The ICC first announced earlier this year plans to launch an inquiry into allegations of widespread human rights abuses by Israel during the Gaza conflict.
The Palestinian submissions to the ICC are unlikely to speed up the court's preliminary investigation, but could reinforce United Nations’ allegations of Israeli war crimes during its assault on Gaza last year. Earlier this year, a damning U.N. report accused both Hamas and Israel of human rights abuses stemming from the 2014 conflict that left thousands of people dead—almost all Palestinian civilians.
Israel has disputed the U.N.'s findings and argued Palestinians shouldn't be entitled to petition the ICC for an investigation, as Palestine isn't universally recognized as a state. Israeli officials have argued any international investigation into alleged Israeli human rights abuses will undermine peace talks—a stance widely dismissed by both Palestinian leaders and human rights groups.
Gazan resident Bouthaineh Al Louh's said she hopes the new evidence will lead to the ICC acknowledging “the crimes that we endured and punish those that deprived us of our loved ones.”
Louh says much of her family was massacred in August 2014, when Israeli forces targeted her home.
“Nothing could have fully prepared me for the devastating loss of my sons, grandsons and granddaughters in an attack against our family home … My son and two stepsons were killed in the attack, as well as my nine-months pregnant daughter-in-law and her three children,” she told Al-Haq.
“Our family will never again be complete, and our house is in ruins,” she said.
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