THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will open a preliminary inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, the court said.
The move, announced by a spokesperson of the court on Friday and reported by Reuters, is the first formal step that could lead to charges against Palestinian or Israeli officials.
Prosecutors from the ICC, a United Nations tribunal which is based in The Hague, will determine whether preliminary findings merit a full investigation into alleged atrocities which could result in charges against individuals on either the Israeli or Palestinian side.
The move follows the signing last month by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of a treaty that may allow the investigation of Israel for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, but which may expose Palesitnian officials to countersuits.
Israel has threatened to go after the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which Israel says may both be complicit in war crimes.
The United States has condemned Abbas’ decision to join the treaty that extends ICC jurisdiction to the Palestinian territories.
“We are deeply troubled by today’s Palestinian action regarding the ICC. It is an escalatory step that will not achieve any of the outcomes most Palestinians have long hoped to see for their people,” Jeff Rathke, a State Department spokesman, said last month.