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ICC Prosecutor Says Israel Must Respect International Law

Voice of America
3 Dec 2023

Amsterdam - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Sunday called on Israel to respect the international rules of war and said he was accelerating his investigation into violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

'In Gaza, there is no justification for doctors to perform operations without light, for children to be operated upon without anesthetics. Imagine the pain,' ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a video message posted online after a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

'I was crystal clear, that this is the time to comply with the law. If Israel doesn't comply now, they shouldn't complain later," Khan said.

Israel has vowed to annihilate Hamas and says its aim in Gaza is to destroy targets linked to the group, while urging civilians to leave those areas. The Iranian-backed Hamas is, meanwhile, sworn to Israel's destruction.

Khan also called on Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, to respect the rules of war and to not misuse any humanitarian aid that is brought into the besieged Gaza strip.

'Civilians must have access to basic food, water and desperately needed medical supplies, without further delay, and at pace and at scale.'

The ICC prosecutor said atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 were 'some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity,' and said his court was ready to assist Israel in investigating them and prosecuting those responsible.

At the same time, he said violence by settlers in the West Bank was 'unacceptable' and could also not go unpunished.

'We have been investigating and we are accelerating investigations,' he said of the situation in the West Bank. 'No Israeli settler armed with an ideology and a gun can think it's open season against Palestinians."

Israel is not a member of the Hague-based court and does not recognize its jurisdiction. But Khan in October stressed his court had jurisdiction over potential war crimes carried out by Hamas militants in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

The ICC has had an ongoing investigation in the occupied Palestinian territories into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity there since 2021.

Accusations of war crimes and human rights abuses have been made on both sides since Hamas gunmen overran several Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and seizing around 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

In response, Israel launched airstrikes and an invasion by tanks and ground troops in the enclave, killing more than 15,000 Gazans, according to Palestinian health authorities.

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