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Palestinian negotiator: Israel must be held accountable for alleged war crimes

Dr. Saeb Erekat said Palestine would seek a hearing in the International Criminal Court.
By Ed Adamczyk   |   Aug. 15, 2014 at 1:44 PM

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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Palestinian leaders are prepared to take Israel to international court over "war crimes," a veteran Palestinian diplomat said.

Dr. Saeb Erekat said Palestine would apply to join the International Criminal Court to hold Israel accountable for alleged crimes committed during combat with Hamas forces in Gaza.

"I can assure you now, that business as usual will be no more. Status quo no more. If the international community, the Camerons, the Kerrys, the Fabiuses of this earth, after these massacres that have been committed against the Palestinians, will just tell the Palestinians and Israelis, 'We invite you back to negotiate' -- this is not going to happen," Erekat told the British newspaper The Telegraph in an interview published Friday.

His references to British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggest he expects Western leaders to join him in bringing Israel not to the negotiating table but to court.

Erekat made his comments in Ramallah -- the West Bank city used as the de facto capital of Palestine -- as a cease-fire was underway in Gaza and negotiators continued exploring peace options for Gaza in Cairo. He added:

"In Britain, if someone attacks British citizens or kills them, you have a navy, an air force, an army that goes and defends them. I don't have any of this, so I defend my people through international legal means. I want the Israelis to defend themselves in the ICC -- and not to say that they are defending themselves with missiles, massacring women and children."

His demands include formal international protection for Palestine under the United Nations, noting, "Since 1992 until 2004, there were about 17 of them (formal protection regimes), ranging from Kosovo, to Somalia, to Cote d'Ivoire, to East Timor, to Georgia. We hope this will be realized. It's much cheaper to realize this (U.N. Security Council) resolution than to throw the bombs that were thrown into Gaza in 28 days."

In demanding an investigation of Israel for war crimes, Hamas opens itself to investigation of its own actions during six weeks of fighting in Gaza, an opportunity Erekat claims Gazans have been anticipating.

"We're willing and ready, we have been defending ourselves with our blood and the blood of our children and grandchildren, and we're willing. We stand tall for international law," he said.

Follow @adamczyk_ed and @UPI on Twitter.
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