THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor issued a warning Wednesday that if Israel goes ahead and destroys a Palestinian Bedouin village on the West Bank that could constitute a war crime.
Israel’s Supreme Court recently rejected a final appeal against plans to demolish the village, Khan al-Ahmar.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a written statement that “evacuation by force now appears imminent.”
She added: “It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes” under the Rome Statute treaty that established the ICC.
Israel says Khan al-Ahmar was built illegally and has offered to resettle its residents a few miles (kilometers) away. Palestinians and other critics say the demolition aims to displace Palestinians in favor of Israeli settlement expansion.
The ICC has been conducting a preliminary inquiry since 2015 in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy and crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict. The investigation is also looking at Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilian population centers.
Israel is not a member of the court and does not accept its jurisdiction. However, Israeli forces could face charges if they are suspected of committing crimes on Palestinian territories as the court has accepted the “State of Palestine” as a member.
Bensouda’s written statement also said she is “alarmed by the continued violence, perpetrated by actors on both sides, at the Gaza border with Israel.” There have been weeks of escalating violence along the border.