For more than a month, Israel has targeted hospitals, residential buildings, schools, medics, first responders, and journalists.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been facing growing calls since last month to investigate Israel’s continuous atrocities in Gaza and hold it accountable for massacring Palestinians in the Strip.
This week, South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor called on the ICC to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a range of violations.
“We call on the prosecutor [of the ICC] to speed up the investigation and explore breaches of three of the four crimes under ICC jurisdiction: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” Pandor wrote for South Africa’s Sunday Times.
She added: “We expect that warrants of arrest should be executed for those most responsible as per the ICC principles of command and superior responsibility.”
Just days earlier on Saturday, Arab and Muslim nations called on the ICC’s prosecutor to conduct an “investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people in all the occupied Palestinian territories.”
The demands have amplified as Israel continues to intensify its aggression on Gaza, in which it has since killed more than 11,200 Palestinians, including 4,600 children.
While the demands have displayed clear positions from some nations in the Israeli aggression, experts have little hope in action being taken.
“Will the ICC do anything? Absolutely not. They never have and never will,” Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former spokesperson of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), virtually told Doha News on Sunday.
The prominent Palestinian expert outlined a number of reasons stopping the ICC from holding Israel accountable. Buttu first noted that Israel is not a member of the ICC whereas Palestine is, making the former not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
The occupying state has long refused to sign the Rome Convention to join the ICC and even pressured the Palestinian Authority to not take action against it. This was seen on multiple occasions throughout history amid the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Last year, Tel Aviv imposed sanctions on the PA in response to Palestine’s request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of Israel’s occupation.
Just days after the vote, Israel announced sanctions against the PA in Ramallah, limiting construction in the occupied West Bank while deducting millions from the government’s tax money.
In shielding its ally from accountability, the US Congress, under the Donald Trump administration, had proposed legislation in 2015 calling for the suspension of aid to Palestine if it joins the ICC.
“The ICC has been really loath to investigate anything that’s relating to Palestine, we saw this happen in 2008, 2009, we saw it again in 2014. We saw one prosecutor after another kick the can down the road to the next prosecutor so that they don’t actually deal with the issue,” Buttu explained.
In March 2021, the former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda launched an investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes in Palestine in 2014. The case was then abandoned when Bensouda left office months later and Israel continued its refusal to cooperate with The Hague.
Meanwhile, the ICC has displayed what many analysts and activists have long described as a double-standard approach towards war crimes globally. A commonly cited recent example is its stark difference between the response to the Russian war on Ukraine—a non-ICC member— and the Israeli war on Gaza.
Within weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion into Ukraine on February 25, 2022, a number of countries, including the US, pressed the ICC to launch an investigation into the war. The US is also a non-ICC member.
“This [ICC] is just a court that aims at prosecuting Putin and aims at dealing with African leaders and that’s it. They haven’t done anything in relation to Afghanistan, in relation to Palestine, in relation to many, many other places too,” Butto noted.
Humanitarian violations on the ground
Israel’s unprecedented and relentless bombing campaign in Gaza has been met with a lack of action globally. Instead, Western countries have backed Israel and cited its “right to self-defence” following the Hamas operation of October 7.
For more than a month, Israel has targeted hospitals, residential buildings, schools, medics, first responders, and journalists. The bombardment, coupled with a complete Israeli siege on Gaza, has led to dire humanitarian conditions on the ground, where millions of Palestinians have been struggling to survive.
At hospitals across the Strip, medics on the ground have been fighting a constant battle against time to treat more than 30,000 injured, including children.
Doctors have been forced to treat thousands of patients on the floor without anaesthesia and are struggling to keep premature babies alive due to the absence of electricity and oxygen.
On Sunday, at least two out of 39 incubator babies died at the Al-Shifa Hospital, the biggest in Gaza, due to the lack of oxygen.
Meanwhile, Gaza’s health authorities said Al Shifa Hospital has turned into a mass grave, in which doctors have been forced to bury victims inside the building due to the non-stop bombardment and attacks by Israeli forces around the vicinity of the facility.
Also on Sunday, authorities said “dogs entered Al-Shifa Hospital and mauled the bodies of the martyrs.”
The targeting of hospitals has intensified over the past two weeks despite humanitarian organisations calling for protection of health facilities. Israel has directly bombarded medical facilities where tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians have been taking shelter or receiving treatment.
More than 190 health staff have been killed by the IOF since the start of the war, per figures shared by The New Arab.
There are also 2,500 Palestinians still believed to be trapped under the rubble of thousands of destroyed buildings. They cannot be extracted due to the extreme lack of tools on the ground and relentless Israeli attacks.
So far, Israel has damaged at least 222,000 residential units and completely destroyed some 40,000, The New Arab reported, forcing hundreds of thousands into displacement.