October 07, 2016 - 12:01 PM
JERUSALEM - The International Criminal Court said Friday was investigating alleged war crimes by both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a senior official in the prosecutor's office.
Phakiso Mochochoko said on Friday the court would "impartially investigate allegations from all sides."
The ICC launched its probe in January, months after the Palestinians joined the body and recognized its jurisdiction.
Palestinians have accused Israel of using excessive force during a 2014 war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and say Israel's construction of settlements in the West Bank is a war crime. Israel has said Hamas perpetrated a war crime by indiscriminately firing rockets at Israeli cities.
As the probe moves closer to possible criminal investigations, suspected war criminals from the Palestinian side could be named in future indictments.
"(It) has been made clear from the start for the Palestinians . that the court is going to independently and impartially investigate allegations from all sides," Mochochoko said. "So it is not anything new to them that we are going to be investigating them as well."
Mochochoko's delegation is in Israel and the West Bank on a six-day visit. He branded a meeting with Israeli officials as "cordial," but clarified the Israeli side did not provide information related to the probe.
Mochochoko declined to speculate about the number of cases the probe might find or how long the process would take, but said the office was working through "a large volume" of information.
The preliminary examination does not include collecting evidence or hearing testimony from witnesses.
Israel is not obliged to abide by any of the tribunal's findings since it is not a member of the court. It says its own justice system is capable of investigating any possible wrongdoing by its troops.
It was not immediately clear what access the ICC will have to Gaza, where most of the alleged war crimes took place. The delegation meets Palestinian officials Saturday.
The 2014 Gaza war was the third between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militants took over control of the territory, and the most devastating. Hamas ousted the rival Palestinian Authority, dominated by President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, from Gaza in 2007.
Over 2,200 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side were killed in the 2014 conflict, according to the United Nations and Palestinian officials.
The Palestinians officially joined the ICC in 2015 hoping to prosecute Israel for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict in Gaza.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016