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Palestine requests ICC open investigation into Israeli settlement activity

May 22, 2018 2:56 P.M. (Updated: May 23, 2018 2:14 P.M.)
A bulldozer is seen next to a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa (background) in east Jerusalem on March 19, 2014 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Maliki, officially submitted a request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday to investigate Israel’s illegal settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, which he called a “grave crime.”

The ministry released a statement on Tuesday, saying that the submission to the ICC was an “important and historic step towards justice for the Palestinian people, who continue to suffer from ongoing, widespread and systematic crimes.”

The ministry described the move as a “necessary step,” given the “gravity and intensification of crimes” being committed by Israel in the occupied territory.

Criticizing Israeli impunity, the ministry urged the ICC prosecutor to immediately open an investigation into Israeli settlement activity, which it said is the “single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives, livelihoods, and national rights.”

“Israel maintains, expands, and protects the settlement regime by committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people,” the statement said.

Among the list of “grave crimes” detailed in the ministry’s submission to the court, were the forcible transfer of Palestinian populations, illegal appropriation of land and property, the demolition of Palestinian homes and other properties, “repression of dissent through unlawful killing of peaceful protesters,” and the policy of “mass arbitrary detention and torture.”

“This step is intended to ensure that those most responsible for these crimes are held accountable for their actions without further delay,” the ministry said, adding “this is a test the International Criminal Court cannot afford to fail.”

The Palestinian government's submission to the ICC came just two months after 25 Israeli settler families moved into their new homes in the illegal Amichai settlement -- the first official Israeli-government sanctioned settlement to be built in the occupied West Bank in 25 years.

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.

In 2017, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) released data showing a 70 percent rise in construction of settlements during the past year compared to previous year.

In the same year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to “protect the settlement enterprise,” reassuring his extremist settler support base that the settlements would continue in “all parts of Judea and Samaria” and that Israel had continued to build “both inside and outside the settlements."

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has argued that settlers acted as “envoys” of the Israeli government in pushing land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory, allowing the government to officially detach themselves from the settlers’ violent and illegal actions, while avoiding or blocking any legal penalties that could be imposed on the settlers, except in the most extreme of cases.

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