Palestinians submit war crimes complaint against Israel in the ICC

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 17, 2022

Israel is ‘unlawfully depriving Palestinian civilians of property’, reads the complaint to the International Criminal Court.

The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) on Wednesday filed a war crimes complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over Israel’s policy of unlawfully depriving Palestinian civilians of property, both for settlements and in “circumstances not justified by military necessity”.

The complaint was filed on behalf of Rezk Salem Hamed Kadih in the Gaza Strip and members of the Salhiya family from Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem, following an investigation that opened on 3 March 2021. 

During the investigation, Fatou Bensouda, then-ICC prosecutor, said: “There was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip; potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible, and there were no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.” 

The complaint calls on the ICC prosecutor to include the cases it has submitted, and intends to submit, as part of the formal investigation. At the time, the ICJP was continuing to gather evidence for numerous further cases to submit to the ICC.  

“The evidence available to support allegations of property-related crimes perpetrated by the Israeli authorities is vast, credible and clear. The fact that this has been allowed to continue as an accepted policy for Israel’s illegal expansion is mind-blowing,” said Tayab Ali, ICJP director. 

“The silence and support from countries in the EU as well as the UK and USA is tantamount to complicity in these crimes.”

Land belonging to the Kadih family

The complaint mentions land in the town of Khuz’a’, in the Yunis district of south Gaza – specifically an area about 36,000 square metres. According to the complaint, Kadih inherited this land and is one of its owners, along with his six siblings. 

The land was originally owned and registered by his grandfather, and has reportedly been in the family for more than 100 years. Three generations of his family have lived on the land and rely on it as their primary source of income. Following the Nakba, Israel occupied almost half of the land and established a separation fence on a part of it.

In 1956, more of the land was confiscated after the Khan Yunis Massacre. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, even more land was taken by Israeli forces. Israel also used “excessive force to remove family members from the land” and established a permanent military presence there, claiming military necessity. “The Israeli military entered the land with bulldozers and opened fire at the farmers on the land,” the complaint reads. 

In 1993, Israel attempted to relocate the separation fence deeper into the property but was met with protests. According to the complaint, the land was used to keep a military presence and served as a farm for Israeli settlers. The family only possesses a small amount of the original land and is not allowed to access all of that which remains. 

“This case involves a long-running denial of property rights. It is representative of Israel’s longstanding, systematic practice of confiscating or occupying Palestinian territory, which increases incrementally over time,” the complaint states.

“This denial of Mr Rezk Kadih’s rights has continued to date. There is no prospect of a domestic solution to Mr Rezk Kadih’s case… The denial of his rights, and those of his family, reflect Israeli state policy.”

Land belonging to the Salhiya family

Another piece of land mentioned in the complaint belongs to the Salhiya family. It is a 6,500 square metre property located in Karm al-Mufti, in Sheikh Jarrah. The land includes two family houses, a plant nursery, and a car sales showroom. It was also home to more than a dozen members of the family. 

In 1967, the Salhiya family intended to register the land with the Jordanian Land Registry. But the registration process was interrupted by the 1967 war in June of that year and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank. The process was, therefore, never completed.

The family has been facing expulsion since 2017, when their land was allocated for school construction, following 23 years of court actions against the Israeli government. Israel issued an ultimatum in December for evacuation of the property on 25 January.

Israel’s Jerusalem municipality argues that the Salhiyas have no right over the land that once belonged to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini – which Israel confiscated after it captured the city in 1967 – according to the Absentee Property Law. The family has owned the house and lived in it for generations, since they were expelled by Zionist militia from Ain Karem in 1948 during the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, the war that preceded Israel’s creation. 

In January, Israeli forces raided the home of the Salhiya family, violently arresting and assaulting family members, before emptying the house and demolishing it.

Large numbers of police units, including counterterrorism and riot police officers accompanied by bulldozers stormed the Salhiya house. 

Yasmin Salhiya, a resident of the home and daughter of the owner, Mahmoud Salhiya, told Middle East Eye at the time that the large Israeli force cut off the electricity supply to the house as they raided it, and started shooting teargas, blocking the vision of those inside. 

Bulldozers finished the demolition three hours later, leaving the house in ruins and the family’s possessions scattered on the ground.