Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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National and World

December 4, 2012

Palestinian war crimes case faces long road

(Continued)

BLUEFIELD —

Goran Sluiter, professor of international law at Amsterdam University, said that with their newfound status, it seems likely the Palestinians could join the ICC. But it is unclear whether the court would agree to investigate their complaints.

He said the court would look at key issues, including the gravity of the alleged crimes and whether Israel's own judicial system is capable of judging the case, before deciding whether to prosecute. If they were to launch a probe, prosecutors also would look at alleged crimes by Palestinians.

"I think there is still a very, very, very, long way to go," Sluitter said. In the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, "there's a broad range of conduct that could be a basis for further investigations because they would qualify as war crimes."

Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said he thinks the Palestinians "will seriously hesitate" taking action against Israel.

He said Israel, for instance, could try to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for rocket attacks out of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip aimed at Israeli cities. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas five years ago, claims to represent both territories on the international stage.

"Any Hamas person who launches a rocket could then be subject to ICC ruling. They have to expose their own people first," said Sabel, who is now a law professor at the Hebrew University.

A U.N. report into heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas four years ago found evidence of war crimes by both sides.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel would fight any attempt by the Palestinians to use the ICC as a "politicized instrument" against Israel.

"We are not worried about Israel's case because we have a good solid case and we work strictly according to international law," he said.

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