THE HAGUE, The Netherlands: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court vowed Tuesday that she was watching closely the unrest in Gaza and would “take any action warranted” to prosecute crimes.
“My staff is vigilantly following developments on the ground and recording any alleged crime that could fall within” the tribunal’s jurisdiction, Fatou Bensouda warned in a statement to AFP.
“The violence must stop,” she insisted, urging “all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this situation and the Israel Defense Forces to avoid excessive use of force.”
Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians during clashes and protests Monday over the deeply controversial opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem
The Palestinian Authority joined the ICC in January 2015 signing up to the Rome Statute which underpins the world’s only permanent war crimes court.
The Palestinians asked the prosecutor to investigate alleged crimes committed in the Palestinian territories in the Gaza war the previous year, and Bensouda opened her inquiry just a few days later.
She recalled Tuesday that the “situation in Palestine is under preliminary investigation by my office.”
“I will be watching and I will take any action warranted by my mandate under the Rome Statute,” she warned, a day after one of the bloodiest days for years in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Bensouda said she had learned with “dismay” of Monday’s death toll, which meant that since the start of the Palestinian protests on March 30 the number of reported deaths was 106 “with several thousand others injured.”
Submitted to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda a few hours before today’s UN Security Council meeting and based on article 15 of the Rome Statute (which established the ICC), the request concerns the direct shots that IDF snipers have fired at some 20 Palestinian journalists during the “March of Return” protests in Gaza.
“The Israeli authorities could not have been unaware of the presence of journalists among the civilian demonstrators, and therefore failed in the elementary duty of precaution and differentiation when targeting these protected persons with live rounds,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“These deliberate and repeated violations of international humanitarian law constitute war crimes. While referring them to the International Criminal Court, RSF calls on the Israeli authorities to strictly respect international law.”
Various sources have corroborated that the following journalists were hit by shots while covering demonstrations east of Gaza City yesterday: Omar Hamdane, a cameraman working for the Algerian national TV broadcaster ENTV, sustained gunshot injuries to the foot; Al Jazeera reporter Wael Dahdouh was injured in the right hand; Zain Media cameraman Mohammed Abu Dahrouj was hit in the left leg; and Yasser Qudeih, a freelance photographer working for the pro-Hamas daily Palestine, sustained a gunshot injury to the stomach and was taken to the intensive care unit at Gaza’s European Hospital.
Two journalists also sustained gunshot injuries near the city of Khan Younis. Abdullah al-Shorbagi, a reporter for the pro-Hamas Khan Younis Media Network, was shot in the left foot while Nihad Fuad, a reporter for Forsan al-Erada community radio, was hit in the head and was taken to Gaza’s European Hospital. Farhan Hashem Abu Hadayd, a reporter for the Safad Press website, sustained a gunshot injury to the left leg to the east of the city of Rafah.
Two Palestinian journalists have been killed by live rounds fired by Israeli soldiers since 30 March, the date of the start of the “March of Return” protests by Palestinians along the border between Gaza and Israeli.
They are Yaser Murtaja, 30, a photographer for the independent Ain Media agency, and Ahmed Abu Hussein, 27, a reporter for Shaab and Bisann News. Both were clearly identified as journalists, either by a vest or by a helmet bearing the word “Press.” In all, at least 20 other journalists have sustained gunshots injuries, of whom at least three were clearly identified as media personnel.