August 23, 2014 - 15:34 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Hamas leaders said on Saturday they had given their consent for the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), a move that could open up both Israel and the militant group to war crime probes over the fighting in Gaza, according to Reuters.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas leader based in Cairo, said he had signed a document Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says all factions must endorse before he proceeds with the ICC push.
If the Palestinians were to sign the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the court would have jurisdiction over crimes committed in the Palestinian territories.
An investigation could then examine events as far back as mid-2002, when the ICC opened with a mandate to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Explaining the Islamist group's decision to sign, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri told Reuters: "There is nothing to fear, the Palestinian factions are leading legitimate resistance in keeping with all international laws and standards."
"We are in a state of self-defense," he added.
At a news conference in Cairo earlier on Saturday, Abbas said he had asked all factions to join the ICC bid, adding: "There will be results for them joining."
There was no immediate comment from Israel, which is also not an ICC member. It says Hamas has committed war crimes by both firing thousands of rockets indiscriminately at Israeli towns and cities and by launching the projectiles from densely populated areas of Gaza.
Both Israel and Hamas defend their military operations as consistent with international law.
In a meeting with ICC prosecutors this month to push for an investigation, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said there was "clear evidence" of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza launched on July 8.
Hamas, which dominates Gaza, is shunned by Israel and the West as a terrorist group. The Islamist group's founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Palestinian health officials say 2,078 people, most of them civilians, have been killed by Israel since it launched its offensive, which is intended to end the militants' rocket fire. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said at least 480 Palestinian children had been reported killed in the Israeli assaults since war started.
Israel says it does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and four civilians have been killed in the fighting.
On Saturday, Israeli aircraft bombed the enclave and Palestinian militants fired rockets at the Jewish state, the military said. Gaza health officials said five people were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in central Gaza.