Palestine takes Israel to the International Criminal Court

Authorities are calling on the court to "take immediate action"

Palestine takes Israel to the International Criminal Court

File photo shows the Palestinian flag flying | Image: PLO Department of Culture and Information

Palestinian officials have submitted a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling on prosecutors there to open an investigation into "widespread and flagrant war crimes" by Israel in the occupied territories.

This is the first time such a submission has been made by Palestine.

Palestine is a state party to the Rome Statute - the treaty that established the ICC - while Israel is not.

On the referral of Israel to the ICC, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation said: "The referral will include Israel's past, present and future war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people.

"The violations include Israel's illegal settlement activities, the displacement of Palestinians, the continued demolition of Palestinian homes and structures, the unlawful killing of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, and the mass arbitrary detention and torture of Palestinian political prisoners."

PLO executive committee member Dr Hanan Ashrawi said: "We urge the ICC to take immediate action and investigate such widespread and flagrant war crimes.

"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."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague | File photo

Dr Ashrawi added: "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).

"The failure of governments worldwide, primarily the United States, to hold Israel accountable has emboldened the Israeli government to intensify its efforts to entrench the occupation and persist in acts of criminality and terror at the expense of the Palestinian people."

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

It comes a week after 58 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces on the Gaza border, including an eight-month-old baby.

Palestinian officials reported that at least 2,771 people were injured, including 1,359 by live ammunition.

Violent protests have been taking place on the Gaza border | File photo

A UN human rights expert has called on the Israeli government to "immediately cease its lethal assault" against protesters.

Michael Lynk said: "This blatant excessive use of force by Israel - an eye for an eyelash - must end, and there must be true accountability for those in military and political command who have ordered or allowed this force to be once again employed at the Gaza fence."

Tensions have been climbing in the region after the US moved its Israeli embassy to the disputed city of Jerusalem earlier this month.

Since then, Paraguay has announced a decision to open its embassy in occupied Jerusalem.