Israeli group files war crimes claim against Hamas


Associated Press

An Israel-based rights organization filed a war crimes complaint against the top leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday for executing Palestinians without trial during the Gaza war this summer.

The Shurat HaDin Law Center filed the war crimes complaint against Khaled Mashaal, who leads Gaza's ruling Hamas group from exile.

According to the complaint, Mashaal "had knowledge of the executions, oversees Hamas' governance of Gaza, and actively encourages and supports the executions."

Hamas declined to comment.

Dozens of Palestinians were executed by gunmen during the fighting with Israel this summer. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights at the time urged an immediate halt to the killings which it called "extrajudicial executions."

Israel's Shin Bet security service continued to run a network of informers in Gaza after Israel's withdrawal from the territory in 2005. It's unclear if those executed by Hamas gunmen were working for Israel or not.

Hamas recently gave its support to the Palestinian Authority joining the International Criminal Court in order to try and prosecute Israelis, but the Palestinians are not members of the body yet.

"Mashaal is a Jordanian citizen and Jordan is a member of the ICC," Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center said. "The ICC is empowered to exercise its jurisdiction over all acts committed by the citizen of a member, wherever those acts are committed."

Darshan-Leitner's group previously has won courtroom victories against Iran, Syria and others for supporting Palestinian militants that killed civilians in bombings and other attacks.

But an ICC case appears to be a long shot. Even if the court accepted it, there would have to be a preliminary examination and only later a full investigation, if it ever were to get that far.

The Al Majd website, which is close to the Hamas security services, said 21 "collaborators" were killed. A Gaza rights group said it was at least 24. While the Israeli advocacy group put the number at 38.

Palestinians have called for Israelis to be charged with war crimes over the high civilian death toll in Gaza during the fighting.

The war killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, three-quarters of whom were civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. estimates. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians, including a Thai worker, were killed.

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