Palestinians renew ICC push against Israel despite US pressure

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RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories, Sept 11, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The
Palestinians announced a fresh push against Israel at the International
Criminal Court on Tuesday, a day after the United States said it was closing
their Washington mission partly over the campaign.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), said it had submitted a new complaint over an Israeli “war crime”
against a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, expected to be
demolished by the Israeli army in the coming days.

The dossier “included a focus on the war crimes facing Khan al-Ahmar,
specifically the crimes of forcible displacement, ethnic cleansing and the
destruction of civilian property,” Erekat said.

He added that the PLO had also asked the ICC’s prosecutor to speed up a
preliminary probe into other alleged Israeli war crimes.

Khan al-Ahmar is in a key location near Jerusalem.

International powers say its demolition could enable Israeli settlement
expansion that would eventually cut the West Bank in two, further threatening
the prospects of an independent Palestinian state.

It could be demolished in the coming days, following an Israeli high court
ruling that it was built without the necessary permits.

The Palestinians submitted a similar complaint regarding the village in
July.

The latest submission came a day after the US confirmed it would close the
PLO’s office in Washington, the highest Palestinian representation in the
country, amid worsening relations between the two.

The White House cited the Palestinians’ ICC campaign and what it said was
their unwillingness to negotiate.

The Palestinian leadership cut off contact with the administration of
President Donald Trump after he recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as
Israel’s capital in December.

Trump’s administration has also cut more than $500 million in aid to
Palestinians, including to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, since
January.

Palestinian leaders say the administration is blatantly biased in favour
of Israel and is seeking to blackmail them into accepting the White House’s
moves.

On Monday, John Bolton, national security adviser to Trump, attacked the
ICC, threatening to sanction judges and other officials if they moved against
US soldiers or those of key allies.

“The US threats against the ICC (are) a coup against the rules-based
international system,” Erekat.

“If you worry about courts, you should not threaten the courts — you
should stop committing crimes or aiding and abetting crimes.”

The ICC launched a preliminary probe in 2015 into allegations of war crimes
and crimes against humanity in Israel and the Palestinian territories, in the
wake of the Gaza war the previous year.

It has yet to move to the next stage and open a full-blown investigation
which could possibly lead to charges.

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