Israel: Netanyahu denounces ICC war crimes move as 'pure anti-Semitism'

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By Mark Armstrong  with AP
Israel: Netanyahu denounces ICC war crimes move as 'pure anti-Semitism'
Copyright  Khalil Hamra/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The International Criminal Court has opened up the possibility of a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in Palestinian territories.

On Friday the court ruled that its jurisdiction does extend to ground occupied by Israel in the 1967 middle-east war.

The decision has been welcomed by the Palestinians but condemned by Israel and the United States.

In a tweet, the Palestinian Authority described the ruling as "a victory for right, justice, freedom and moral values in the world".

But Israel's prime minister accused the court of ``legal persecution and a "perversion of justice".

"When the ICC (International Criminal Court) investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-Semitism," said Benjamin Netanyahu. "The court established to prevent atrocities like the Nazi Holocaust against the Jewish people is now targeting the one state of the Jewish people."

He also accused the court of having a double standard.

"The ICC refuses to investigate brutal dictatorships like Iran and Syria, who commit horrific atrocities almost daily," he said.

"I assure you we will fight this perversion of justice with all our might."

The United States also objected to the ruling. Like Israel, the US does not recognise the court's jurisdiction.

Last year, the Trump administration imposed sanctions against ICC officials.

They included revoking the chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's entry visa to the US over the court's attempts to prosecute American troops for actions in Afghanistan.

Bensouda said in 2019 that there was a "reasonable basis" to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

But she asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding.

In a statement on Twitter, Bensouda's office welcomed the “judicial clarity” of the ruling, but said it needed time before deciding how to proceed.

The court could also potentially investigate crimes committed by Palestinian militants.

Bensouda has said her probe would look into the actions of Hamas, which fired rockets indiscriminately into Israel during the 2014 war.