A delegation from the International Criminal Court in The Hague is to send a delegation to Israel to assess its ability to investigate war crimes, a senior Israeli official has said.
Emmanuel Nahshon, a foreign ministry spokesman, told Al Jazeera that Israel would allow the delegation into the country, but the “how and when” had yet to be decided.
News of the visit has galvanised those who hope Israeli leaders will be charged for war crimes, following several deadly conflicts with militants in the Gaza Strip, most recently in 2014, when more than 2,200 people were killed in 51 days.
Israeli investigators recently exonerated IDF personnel following complaints about attacks on three Palestinian families, the shelling of Gaza’s main power plant, the bombing of a hospital and a United Nations school, which was serving as a shelter. Another 80 complaints were not investigated.
If Hague prosecutors feel that Israeli authorities are unable or unwilling to conduct credible investigations themselves, they can take over jurisdiction.
This move would be heavily resisted in Jerusalem, especially after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the ICC last year for recognising Palestine as a state.
If the ICC delegation visits, Israel will point to a new level of cooperation with external investigators, after it refused entry to official UN into the conduct of military operations in Gaza in 2008/9 and 2014. The latest Commission of Inquiry, led by Justice Mary McGowen-Davis, found “credible evidence of war crimes,” when it reported in 2015.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed concern about Israel’s “low rate of investigations opened into these serious allegations,” while some human rights groups in the country have said they will no longer submit complaints to “a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up”.
IDF policies have been criticised from within Israel by former soldiers, who say they led to “massive and unprecedented harm to the population” in Gaza which should have been predicted.