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Protests in the Hague against Turmp's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Photo: Abdullah Asiran/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In an announcement that will infuriate Israel and could have far-reaching international consequences, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced today that there is a basis for opening an investigation regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But, but, but: The prosecutor referred the issue to the court’s judges and asked for their opinion within 120 days as to whether the Hague-based court has jurisdiction in the matter. Today's announcement follows a five-year preliminary examination, launched at a Palestinian request.

"There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
— Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Why it matters: A formal investigation of Israel's actions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza was long considered the "nuclear option." Such a decision could lead to international arrest warrants against Israeli officials and potentially U.S. sanctions against the international court.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda designated the alleged crimes she wants to investigate:

  • Three incidents in which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) allegedly committed war crimes by intentionally launching disproportionate attacks during the 2014 Gaza war.
  • Alleged war crimes committed by Hamas and other Palestinians terror organizations by intentionally directing attacks against civilians and using civilians as human shields during the 2014 Gaza war.
  • Alleged war crimes by Israeli officials who were involved in the transfer of Israeli civilians into the West Bank since June, 2014.
  • The IDF's use of lethal means — beginning in March, 2018 — against protesters near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Driving the news: Bensouda stressed that she does consider Palestine to be a state and thinks the court’s territorial jurisdiction extends to Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.

  • But she wrote that — due to the unique history and circumstances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fact that Palestine does not have full control over its territory and that the borders are disputed — she wants the judges to rule on the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction.

Flashback: The Palestinian Authority turned to the court in 2014 after a peace initiative led by Secretary of State John Kerry broke down.

  • The Palestinians issued two complaints against Israel — the first regarding the 2014 Gaza war and the second regarding the building of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • The Israeli government has countered pressure from the Palestinians to open an investigation by claiming the Hague-based court has no jurisdiction in the Israeli-Palestinian case — mainly due to the fact that Palestine is not a state.

Several hours before the prosecutor’s announcement, Israel published a comprehensive legal opinion from the Israeli attorney general claiming the ICC has no jurisdiction.

  • The main point in the attorney general’s legal opinion is that only sovereign states can delegate criminal jurisdiction to the court and the Palestinian Authority clearly does not meet the criteria for statehood under international law.
  • Another point is that Israel has valid legal claims over the same territory and both sides agreed in the past to resolve their dispute through negotiations.

What’s next: The next 120 days are expected to turn into a legal battle between Israel and the Palestinians to convince the judges to rule in their favor. The prosecutor wrote that both parties, relevant victims and other states and interested entities may address the judges.  

Go deeper

51 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments, including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.