In a statement released on Sunday, Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, expressed her “grave concern” over “the violence and deteriorating situation” in the blockaded sliver, adding that she was monitoring events there closely.
“Violence against civilians - in a situation such as the one prevailing in Gaza – could constitute crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as could the use of civilian presence for the purpose of shielding military activities” she said.
Israel has faced international criticism over its use of live fire after 10 days of protests and clashes along the fence in which its forces have killed 30 Palestinians, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. The ICC statement said over a thousand more Palestinian protesters had sustained injuries since late last month, “many as a result of shootings using live ammunition and rubber-bullets.”
Earlier in the day, the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, said there were “no innocent people” in Gaza, claiming that all the Gazans were affiliated with the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas. His comment can also be interpreted as a green light for Israeli troopers to exert more violence in the impoverished sliver.
Elsewhere in her remarks, Bensouda said Palestinian territories were subject to preliminary examination by her office.
“While a preliminary examination is not an investigation, any new alleged crime committed in the context of the situation in Palestine may be subjected to my Office's scrutiny. This applies to the events of the past weeks and to any future incident,” she added.
She also said that the ICC would record any instance of incitement or resort to unlawful force.
“Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC's jurisdiction is liable to prosecution before the Court, with full respect for the principle of complementarity. The resort to violence must stop,” Bensouda further said.
On March 30, Palestinians marched to the fence separating Gaza from the occupied territories at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.
The demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire against the protesters.
Israel has tightened military presence on the Gaza fence, deploying armored vehicles, back-up special forces and snipers. The regime’s forces have also the permission to open fire on unnamed Gazans.
The Return rallies culminate on May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948 and Israel was created.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.
Almost 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees, demanding their right to return to their pre-1948 homes.