A delegation from the world’s only permanent war crimes court is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories for five days this week for an outreach trip aimed at promoting “better understanding” about its work, the chief prosecutor said Wednesday.
The trip from Wednesday until October 10 will be the first to the region by officials from the prosecutor’s office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) since the 2014 Gaza war.
The visit is potentially sensitive because the ICC is conducting a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed by either side during the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas movement.
The team will travel to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement for “meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials at the working levels.”
But she made no mention of whether the delegation would travel to the impoverished Gaza Strip and stressed the visit was not aimed at investigating any allegations.
She said the visit was “not linked” to her preliminary investigation which she said “is ongoing and is following its normal course.”
“The purpose of this visit will be to undertake outreach and education activities with a view to raising awareness about the ICC and in particular, about the work of the office,” Bensouda said.
The delegation from her office “will not engage in evidence collection in relation to any alleged crimes,” she added.
“Neither will the delegation undertake site visits.”
The 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas and other factions killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 551 children, according to U.N. figures. On the Israeli side, 73 people were killed, mostly soldiers.
Israel and the Palestinians have accused each other of war crimes.
Israel is alleged to have used force indiscriminately, while Hamas is accused of firing rockets at Israeli civilian population centers and of using Palestinians as human shields.
The Palestinians formally asked the ICC last year to investigate the Jewish state, which is not a party to the treaty that governs the court, for alleged war crimes.
Israel vehemently opposes any ICC probe, but officials have said they will cooperate with the body to convince it of the competence of the state’s own court.
In a related development, the Israeli military said a rocket fired from Gaza has landed in a street in the southern town of Sderot.
No one was wounded in Wednesday’s attack but it marked a rare incident of rocket fire penetrating Israel’s aerial defense system.
Only a handful of projectiles have struck the previously battered town since the conclusion of the 2014 war.
Israel retaliated to the attack by shelling a Hamas post in Gaza.
A small extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.