Skip to content
View Featured Image

ICC Chief Prosecutor Says Probe Underway Into Israeli War Crimes

Above photo: Reuters.

Tel Aviv withdrew its signature from the Rome Statute that founded the ICC.

And has maintained since 2022 that it does not recognize the court’s authority.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, on 12 February warned Israeli officials about the consequences of launching a ground invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip and revealed his office launched an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Tel Aviv.

“I am deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah. My office has an ongoing and active investigation into the situation in the State of Palestine. This is being taken forward as a matter of the utmost urgency, with a view to bringing to justice those responsible for Rome Statute crimes,” Khan said via social media.

“All wars have rules, and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning. This has been my consistent message, including from Ramallah last year. Since that time, I have not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel,” the British official stressed.

Khan also reminded Israeli officials that “those who are in breach of the law will be held accountable.”

The ICC — which can charge individuals with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide — began an investigation into alleged crimes in the Gaza Strip, the occupied West Bank, and East Jerusalem in 2021. Khan said last year that he was broadening its scope to include the escalation of hostilities since 7 October.

After his post on Monday, Khan told Reuters that the critical situation in Gaza is one to which his office is giving “utmost priority.” “When you have a population that is 60 percent children and women by all accounts, the risks to civilians are profound”, he added.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and does not recognize its jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Khan said in October that the Hague-based court has jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

In January 2015, the state of Palestine became a signatory to the Rome Statute, giving the ICC jurisdiction to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The ICC works separately from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which handles disputes between states. Last month, the ICJ ruled on provisional measures in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, ordering Tel Aviv to take measures to prevent acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip and to allow humanitarian aid to enter the enclave.

UN officials and international law experts have criticized the ICC for its slow handling of prosecuting those responsible for Israel’s war crimes in Gaza.

In December, Palestinians expressed anger toward Khan when he visited the occupied West Bank, accusing him of applying a double standard by focusing his efforts on the Hamas attack and ignoring the atrocities committed by Israel.

Many were also disappointed that Khan accepted an Israeli invitation to visit the sites of the 7 October attack while declining to visit the hundreds of illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank.

During his three-day visit, Israel did not allow Khan to enter Gaza.

Triestino Mariniello, a member of the legal team representing Gaza victims before the ICC, has also criticized Khan for applying “double standards.”

“One finds it difficult to understand why the Prosecutor remains silent in relation to the mass killing of Palestinians and the extensive destruction of civilian homes,” Mariniello, Professor of Law at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, wrote in an article on the Opinio Juris website.

Australia, Japan alarmed over Rafah ground invasion.

Israel conducted airstrikes in Rafah that killed at least 100 civilians and injured hundreds more.

Australia and Japan joined a litany of other nations and entities on 12 February in warning Israel against further aggression in Rafah in the south of Gaza, saying that any escalation would lead to “devastating consequences” for the 1.3 million Palestinians displaced there.

“153 countries, including Australia, have already called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said via social media. “Now many of Israel’s friends are expressing deep concerns about reports of an Israeli military operation in Rafah. This would have devastating consequences for civilians.”

Wong added that the over one million Palestinians sheltering in and around Rafah were there because they had followed Israeli orders to evacuate northern Gaza, or due to threats from the Israeli army.

“What Australia would say is that Israel must now exercise special care in relation to these civilians,” the Australian foreign minister said.

The Japanese foreign ministry also released a statement noting the nation’s concern about the recent Israeli aggression in Rafah.

“Japan is deeply concerned about the reports of an Israeli military operation in Rafah in the Gaza Strip,” the ministry’s spokesman, Maki Kobayashi, said. “Over one million Palestinian people in Gaza have been displaced in Rafah, which is a particularly important location for the delivery of humanitarian supplies.”

The ministry also noted that given the dire humanitarian situation and the growing number of civilian casualties – including among women, children, and the elderly – crucial steps must be taken to ensure the situation does not deteriorate any further and allow for humanitarian activities to be carried out properly.

“Japan once again reiterates the importance of the protection of civilians and urges all parties to act in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law, and to act in good faith based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions, including ensuring humanitarian assistance,” Kobayashi added.

Hamas has warned Israel that a ground offensive in Rafah would jeopardize negotiations on a truce deal.

In the early hours of 12 February, the Israeli army carried out about 40 airstrikes that led to the deaths of over 100 civilians and injured hundreds more.

The Israeli aerial attacks targeted civilian homes, mosques, and hospitals and were accompanied by artillery shelling and bombardments by the Israeli navy.

Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.