Israel ‘won't let its soldiers be dragged to ICC’

PM Netanyahu made the statement two days after the Palestinians filed an application to become a party to the court

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Israel will not permit its soldiers to be hauled in front of the International Criminal Court on potential war crimes charges, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

"We will not let Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, two days after the Palestinians filed a controversial application to become a party to the court.

The Palestinian Authority has asked the ICC to investigate crimes committed in the Palestinian territories since June 13, 2014, ICC sources have said.

The investigation if launched could focus on the atrocities committed during the 50-day war on Gaza which began on July 8, 2014. More than 2,000 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 66 Israeli soldiers and five civilians were killed during the war.

Israel has started implementing economic sanctions against the Palestinian authorities and is looking at ways to prosecute senior Palestinians for war crimes in the United States and elsewhere in response to the ICC bid, Israeli officials said on Saturday.

The Palestinians submitted documents to the United Nations to join court on Friday.

Israel froze about $125 million from tax funds collected on the behalf of the Palestinian authorities which were scheduled to go through this month in response to the Palestinians’ ICC bid, Ynet News reported Israeli sources as saying.

Later on Saturday, an Israeli official also confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Tel Aviv is freezing the tax funds.

The funds were frozen following a discussion convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A senior Palestinian official slammed the decision as “Israeli piracy.”

Each month, the Palestinian authorities’ salaries cost around $200 million, of which $120 million stems from taxes collected by Israel.

The Palestinians also could lose their $400 million in annual U.S. aid if the Palestinians used membership in the ICC to press claims against Israel.

The United States, Israel’s main ally, supports an eventual independent Palestinian state, but has argued against unilateral moves like Friday’s, saying they could damage the peace process.

The Palestinians also seek an investigation into the continuous building of Israeli settlements, considered as illegal under international law.

The probe could begin as soon as Palestine becomes a full member in the ICC and a signatory of the Rome Statute.

[With AFP]

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