Bethlehem, 08 Muharram 1438/09 October 2016 (MINA) – The Hamas movement called a visit by an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel this weekend “pointless and useless” on Monday, after the delegation declined to include the Gaza Strip in their visit.
“It is regrettable that the ICC delegation yielded to the demands of the Israeli occupation to exclude the Gaza Strip from the delegation’s schedule, despite the fact that the Gaza Strip was the main site of Israeli crimes in 2014,” Ma’an quoted a statement released on the movement’s website as saying.
Various human rights groups have charged Israel with international war crimes and submitted several cases to the ICC related to Israel’s devastating 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014 that culminated in the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians.
Meanwhile, critics have questioned the ICC’s ability to bring justice on issues related to Palestine in the face of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the court, and have even faulted the ICC itself with playing a key role in the slow process of holding Israel accountable.
“As a result, Hamas considers the delegation’s visit pointless and useless. The visit has caused more pain and suffering for the families of victims who counted on the ICC to bring justice to them and bring the Israeli killers before the court.”
The fierce condemnation by Hamas, the de facto rulers of the blockaded Gaza Strip, came as the Palestinian Authority (PA)-governed occupied West Bank welcomed the delegation of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to the city of Ramallah on Saturday.
They were scheduled to meet with the committee that is charged with following up on ICC investigations, the state-run television network Palestine TV, and a Palestinian newspaper, according to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
On Sunday, the delegation will travel to the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank to attend an academic meeting at Bethlehem University. Meanwhile, the OTP also plans to visit Israel.
“The State of Palestine had officially requested the OTP visit Gaza, though it was declined. We hope that on their next visit the ICC delegation will visit other areas of the Occupied State of Palestine, including Hebron and the Jordan Valley,” the PLO’s ICC Higher National Committee said Friday.
The ICC’s decision to skip visiting the besieged Gaza Strip comes after the small Palestinian territory was was bombarded by a wave of Israeli airstrikes in recent days, and after Israel imprisoned activists aboard an all-female flotilla that attempted to reach Gaza this past week.
The flotilla was the fourth of its kind since 2010, when the first Freedom Flotilla was brutally attacked by Israeli naval forces, who killed ten Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship.
No Israelis were ever charged for the killings on the Mavi Marmara, despite a case being filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging Israeli officials with war crimes.
Israeli war crimes
Meanwhile in August, the Israeli military closed 13 criminal investigations into cases of Israeli soldiers committing violations against Palestinian civilians during the 2014 Gaza war, without imposing any punitive measures, while some 80 incidents were closed without opening a criminal investigation.
The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the United Nations.
According to a UN report, there were incidents in which hundreds of Gazans were killed at the same time, many belonging to the same family, when Israeli air forces bombed residential buildings — credible allegations that the incidents amounted to war crimes.
The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas became the de facto ruling party in the territory.
Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008.
The UN has warned that the besieged Palestinian territory could become “uninhabitable” by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy.
Residents have continued to experience trauma in their daily lives following the 2014 Israeli offensive, as reconstruction efforts have moved at a glacial pace and with some 75,000 Palestinians still displaced after losing their homes in 2014. (T/R07/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)