Hamas backs International Criminal Court bid

Gaza City - Hamas has signed a pledge to back any Palestinian bid to join the International Criminal Court, two senior officials in the group said on Saturday. Such a step could expose Israel - as well as Hamas - to war crimes investigations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has debated for months whether to join the court, a step that would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could also strain his ties with the United States.

The decision by Hamas to sign a document in support of a court bid removes a major obstacle, though it's not clear if Abbas now will go ahead. A hesitant Abbas has said he would not make any decision without the written backing of all Palestinian factions. Last month, he obtained such support from all factions in the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Hamas, which is not a PLO member, has said it would study the idea. Its decision to support the court option came after almost seven weeks of a deadly cross-border war with Israel and several failed cease-fire efforts.

Since the war erupted July 8, more than 2 090 Palestinians have been killed, including close to 500 children, and about 100 000 Gazans have been left homeless, according to United Nations figures and Palestinian officials. Israel lost 64 soldiers and four civilians, including a 4-year-old boy killed by a mortar shell on Friday.

Abbas under pressure

During the war, Gaza militants have fired more than 3 800 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, while Israel launched about 5 000 airstrikes at Gaza, the military said. Israel says it has targeted sites linked to militants, including rocket launchers and weapons. UN and Palestinian officials say three-fourths of those killed in Gaza have been civilians.

On Saturday, an airstrike on a house in central Gaza killed two women, two children and a man, according to medics at the Red Crescent. Six strikes also hit a house in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza, causing severe damage but no injuries, Gaza police said.

Since the start of the Gaza war, Abbas has come under growing domestic pressure to pave the way for a possible war crimes investigation of Israel. Last month, he told senior PLO officials and leaders of smaller political groups he would only go ahead if Hamas supports the bid.

If Abbas were to turn to the court, Hamas could be investigated for indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel since 2000. Israel could come under scrutiny for its actions in the current Gaza war as well as decades of settlement building on war-won lands the Palestinians seek for a state.

Izzat Rishq, a senior Hamas official, said on Saturday that Hamas was not concerned about becoming a target of a war crimes investigation.

"We are under occupation, under daily attack and our fighters are defending their people," he said in a phone interview from Qatar. "These rockets are meant to stop Israeli attacks and it is well known that Israel initiated this war and previous wars."

However, it is not clear if such arguments would hold up in court. After the last major round of Israel-Hamas fighting more than five years ago, a UN fact-finding team said both Israel and Hamas violated the rules of war by targeting civilians - Hamas by firing rockets at Israel.

'Signed the paper'

Hamas' decision to back a court bid came after meetings on Thursday and Friday in Qatar between Abbas and the top Hamas leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas leader who participated in the meetings, wrote on his Facebook page early Saturday that "Hamas has signed the paper" of support Abbas had requested. Rishq said that "we studied the paper and signed it".

Abu Marzouk's post was also reported on Hamas news websites.

There was no comment from Abbas aides and no immediate reaction from Israel, which has opposed involving the court.

Turning to the International Criminal Court became an option for Abbas in 2012, after the UN General Assembly recognised "Palestine" in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands captured by Israel in 1967, as a non-member observer state. The upgrade to a state opened the door to requesting the court's jurisdiction in Palestine.

Allan Maurice Levitt 2014/08/23 10:38:21 AM
JOKE !!. A terrorist organisation joining the international criminal court. They are high up members of the international criminal fraternity. What in heaven's name is becoming of this world.
Thoko Khanya 2014/08/23 10:43:10 AM
So these people are busy killing civilians. So Hamas still remains the same. Why do they claim to have weakened Hamas? Why tell lies? Peace negotiations is the only solution to this.
Cyberfriend 2014/08/23 10:50:51 AM
Seems the Palestinian people are doing things right
Michael Ndalama Mwale 2014/08/23 10:59:08 AM
Lands captured by Israel in 1967 have always been Jewish lands historically. Arabs have always have a tendency of attacking and taking over other ethnic groups' lands. They invaded and took over north Africa from Africans and they have been encroaching on Palestine - the land of the Jews - since the beginning of the Jewish diaspora during the Roman Empire. If we ignore history we surpress justice.
Rice Safari 2014/08/23 11:12:45 AM
Good! Hamas must be held accountable in the International Criminal Court for the 18 citizens of Gaza executed without a trial.
Mohammed Salajee 2014/08/23 11:13:00 AM
Why is MR Abbas very quiet is he for the Palestinians.he does not know who to b loyal to Mr president wake up & send ur army to destroy the IDF.
Brad Saunders 2014/08/23 11:34:58 AM
How are you going to identify a fighter doing so from the relative anonimity of a mask.
Makhulu Zulu 2014/08/23 11:58:32 AM
Abu Yazan: The people of Gaza will reject any agreement that doesn't fulfill their demands.. The price was huge and anything less than a seaport, an airport, an immediate release of the prisoners, a lift of the siege and an ICC for Israel is going to be a curse following Israel and any of the palestinian politicians accepting anything less than that.. If our politicians need more blood to get our terms of truce, We're here and we're ready.. Let 5000 more of us get killed, let 10,000 get killed if the outcome is a better life for 1.8 million people.. Enough siege, Enough frustration, Enough humiliation and Enough slavery and dependency.. Either we live a respectful life or we die standing. These are not my words only but the words of every palestinian living in Gaza
Alan Yates 2014/08/23 12:06:14 PM
Did not know BOKO-HAMAS was into standup comedy. This is a joke. It is like saying IS can lay war crimes charges...Pillay's UNHCR is a pro muslim kangaroo court...
Seek Anfind 2014/08/23 12:19:07 PM
hilarious! ! a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black! if he signs it he knows Palestine's dirty moves will be displayed for all to see.. there propaganda campaign will fall flat!