International prosecutor preparing to open Palestinian probe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court took a major step Friday toward opening an investigation in the occupied Palestinian territories, asking judges exactly what territory a future investigation could cover.

The announcement ended years of preliminary investigations into alleged crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinians and signaled that Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is preparing to open a formal probe.

It drew swift condemnation from Israel, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it “a dark day for truth and justice.”

While Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, Palestinians have been recognized as a member state and requested an investigation.

“I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” Bensouda said in a statement.

She said she is “satisfied that ... war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

Bensouda said she has now asked judges to outline the geographic scope of an investigation.

“Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the Court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”

Netanyahu said Bensouda's decision “has turned the International Criminal Court into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel. The prosecutor has completely ignored the legal arguments we presented to her.”