ICC ruling brings hope for Palestinians, dismay for Israelis

Jerusalem/Gaza, Feb 7 (Agency) Many Palestinians see a ruling by the International Criminal Court that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories as a belated chance of justice for victims of Israeli attacks. But for many Israelis, Friday’s ruling is worrying because they say they are the “good guys” defending themselves against Palestinian violence. The ruling, delivered by a pre-trial chamber of three ICC judges, could lead to criminal investigations of Israel and Palestinian militant groups including Hamas. No probe was expected in the near future, however.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she would now examine the decision and pointed to the 2014 Gaza war between Israel and militant groups in Hamas-controlled Gaza, the 2018 Gaza border protests and Israeli settlements in occupied territory. In Khan Younis in Gaza, Palestinian Tawfiq Abu Jama said 24 members of his extended family had been killed in an Israeli air strike during the seven-week conflict in 2014 – in which the dead included more 2,100 Palestinians, many of them civilians, as well as 67 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians. Abu Jama said he regarded the ICC decision as “possible justice that came late and better than never … we don’t trust Israeli courts.”

An investigation into the Khan Younis strike, carried out by the Israeli military’s judicial arm, concluded that it was lawful, and had targeted a militant. On the Israeli side of the border, Israeli Gadi Yarkoni, who lost both his legs in a Palestinian mortar bomb attack during the same war, said he was angered by the ruling. “We are the good guys here, we don’t fire in order to kill innocent children but they fire at us in order to kill civilians,” said Yarkoni, who is head of the Eshkol Regional Council, bordering Gaza. “I weep for every civilian killed in Gaza and the West Bank but we are defending our borders.” The two sides agreed on one thing – neither expects a swift outcome from the ICC. An Israeli official who requested anonymity said “it’s not like arrest warrants are going to be issued tomorrow morning,” adding that Israel would coordinate steps with Washington over the court’s ruling.