Palestinians file war crimes claim over West Bank hamlet

Palestinians have filed a new complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court after the US said it would resort to any means to protect its allies against such actions at the war crimes body.

The move comes a day after the US closed Palestinian offices in Washington because of their leaders’ refusal to enter peace talks with Israel.

National security adviser John Bolton also lashed out at Palestinians for their attempts to have Israel prosecuted at the ICC, denouncing the court’s legitimacy and threatening sanctions if it targeted Israel and others.

But at a press conference in Ramallah, Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel’s planned demolition of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank. He also indicated the Palestinians plan to join other international bodies.

Saeb Erekat during a press conference in Ramallah (Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP)

Mr Erekat said the Palestinians have asked the chief prosecutor to meet village representatives and include Israel’s actions as part of her investigation into possible war crimes by Israel.

“The US threats against the ICC are a coup against the rules in the international system,” he said.

“The Trump administration wants to dismantle the international order to ensure that it can stay above the laws and escape accountability.”

Israel has long denounced Palestinian efforts to globalise their conflict by turning to external bodies with what it considers bogus claims. In particular, it says the ICC lacks jurisdiction because Israel is not a member of the court.

The Trump administration dramatically increased its rhetoric by threatening sanctions if the court pursues investigations against the US, Israel or other allies. Mr Bolton said the ICC “is already dead” to the US.

The administration cited the refusal of Palestinian leaders to enter into peace talks with Israel as the reason for closing the Palestinian Liberation Organisation office in Washington, although the US has yet to present its plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Protesters block traffic on the road passing near Khan al-Ahmar (Nasser Nasser/AP)

The Palestinians accuse the administration of dismantling decades of US engagement with them by blatantly siding with Israel. They say that given recent moves by Washington, a pending US peace plan will be dead on arrival.

Mr Erekat said: “We don’t want confrontation with the US, by the way, but how can anyone with all these American decisions, Trump’s decisions, believe that these people can be honest brokers, facilitators in any peace process? They are no longer partners in the peace process.”

He said Israel should be held accountable for its plans for the Khan al-Ahmar encampment, a West Bank hamlet that has focused attention on what critics say is the displacement of Palestinians by Israel.

European countries urged Israel this week to refrain from demolition.

Israel says Khan al-Ahmar was built illegally and has offered to resettle residents seven miles away, but critics say it is impossible for Palestinians to get building permits and that the demolition is meant to make room for an Israeli settlement.

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal last week, paving the way for demolition.

- Press Association

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