Israel to Allow ICC Visit on Gaza War Mission

A Palestinian protester, wearing a traditional keffiyeh and bearing the portrait of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, looks on during clashes Israeli soldiers near the border between Israeli and the eastern outskirts of Gaza City on November 13, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty …
MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel is to host a working group of the International Criminal Court as it weighs whether to probe alleged war crimes in the 2014 Gaza war, an Israeli official said Friday.

The group’s arrival “shortly” will be unprecedented, he told AFP on condition of anonymity, saying the visit was intended to show the ICC team “how the Israeli judicial system works”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to comment to AFP.

The trip is at the request of ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Under its statutes, the ICC must be satisfied that the state in question is unable or unwilling to pursue the matter itself before the court opens war crimes proceedings.

Israel will seek to convince the visiting ICC team that it intends to see justice done over accusations it used excessive force in the July-August 2014 war in and around the Palestinian territory and events immediately preceeding it.

The official could not say if the group would be given access to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to which Israel controls all passage except across the largely closed Gaza-Egypt border.

The 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and other factions killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children, according to UN figures.

On the Israeli side, 73 people were killed, mostly soldiers.

Israel and the Palestinians have accused each other of war crimes.

Israel vehemently opposes any ICC investigation but officials have said they will cooperate with the body to convince it of the competence of the state’s own courts.

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