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Palestinians Ask Hague Court to Open Full Inquiry Into Israel

Riyad al-Maliki

More than anything else, Israel's impunity must end, and it is time that the perpetrator of the crime (the occupier) is punished and not the victim (the occupied).

"It is vital for the ICC to assume a principled and just stand and open an official, speedy and criminal investigation into Israel's egregious violations being committed throughout occupied Palestine".

In response to Tuesday's move at the ICC, Israel said it took a "severe view" of the Palestinian request, calling it a "cynical" and "absurd" step. "Israel maintains, expands, and protects the settlement regime by committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people", it added.

Maliki is scheduled to meet prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Netherlands on Tuesday morning to submit the referral.

The PLO is also calling on the global community to "assume its legal, human and moral responsibilities" to guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people under worldwide law and worldwide humanitarian law.

Still, Malki insisted that going to the ICC could become a building block for peace.

The diplomatic move comes after widespread outrage in the occupied Palestinian territories and internationally over the Israeli army's killing on May 14 of 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip, in what was described by rights groups as a massacre.

The Palestinian foreign minister told a room full of reporters it was "a test the ICC can not afford to fail", and said "the State of Palestine is seeking justice and redress, not revenge".

The ICC has been conducting a probe since 2015 into alleged crimes in the disputed territories, including Israel's settlement policy and the 2014 Gaza conflict.

Despite a visit to the region, the tribunal has yet to move to the next stage and open a full-blown investigation which could possibly lead to charges being brought.

The referral sought an investigation into Israeli policies in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip since the state of Palestine accepted the ICC's jurisdiction in 2014, he said.

Israel has said it was defending its border and accused Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group of using the unrest to carry out attempted attacks and of using civilians as human shields.

While the ICC can indict suspects, it has no police force and has to rely on co-operation from member states to enforce arrest warrants. Israel also captured Gaza in the 1967 war.

In 2004, the U.N.'s highest judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, ruled in an advisory opinion that the settlements breached international law.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements that are illegal under the worldwide law, which prohibits construction on occupied land.

Israel claims east Jerusalem as an inseparable part of its capital - though its annexation is not global recognized.