Mexico and Chile ask ICC to investigate Israel-Hamas conflict

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Mexico and Chile have asked the International Criminal Court to investigate possible crimes committed during Hamas’s attack on Israel and the Jewish state’s subsequent invasion of Gaza.

The move is the latest sign of mounting international concern at the soaring human cost of the war, which is now the deadliest round of fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Mexico said it and Chile had made the referral as a result of “growing concern over the latest escalation of violence, particularly against civilian targets, and the alleged continued commission of crimes”, both in Hamas’s October 7 attack launched from Gaza and during Israel’s retaliatory invasion of the coastal enclave.

“With this action, Mexico . . . emphasises the importance of guaranteeing the independence of the ICC prosecutor to investigate crimes committed during the conflict in Gaza, whether committed by agents of the occupying power or the occupied power,” Mexico’s foreign ministry said.

The Hague-based ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute individuals for international crimes such as genocide, war crimes and other offences. However, it cannot enforce sentences without co-operation from states. Israel is not a party to the statute that established the court and does not recognise its jurisdiction.

Alberto van Klaveren, Chile’s foreign minister, said: “We are interested in supporting the investigation of any possible war crime that has been committed in the area, wherever it comes from, whether it is committed by Israelis or Palestinians and war crimes that have been committed in the territory in Gaza, in the occupied territories of the West Bank, in East Jerusalem and also in Israel.”

Israel’s embassy in Mexico said it “regretted” the announcement by the Mexican government, and that Israel had “a legitimate right to self-defence in conformity with international law”.

“Israel expects that the international community will condemn the terrorist attack against civilians, and show its clear support for [Israel’s] full right to self-defence,” it said on Thursday.

The Palestinian foreign ministry welcomed the referral, saying it “confirms the urgent need for the court to fulfil its mandate, to deter, investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes of concern for the international community”.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant group launched a devastating assault on Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking a further 250 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 24,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials, as well as displacing 1.9mn of the enclave’s 2.3mn inhabitants, and rendering huge swaths of the territory uninhabitable.

South Africa last week brought a separate case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, alleging that it was committing genocide against the Palestinians in its war in Gaza.

Israel has furiously rejected Pretoria’s accusations as lacking “both a factual and a legal basis”, and insisted that it is acting in self-defence, complying with international law and trying to minimise harm to civilians.

Mexico said it was “closely following” the ICJ case, and that it hoped that its actions could “open spaces for an immediate ceasefire and contribute to paving the way for a lasting peace in the region”.

Additional reporting by Ciara Nugent in Buenos Aires

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