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ICC prosecutor says 'deeply concerned' by Rafah bombing

By AFP - Feb 13,2024 - Last updated at Feb 13,2024

People stand around craters caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on Monday (AFP photo)

THE HAGUE — The International Criminal Court's(ICC) chief prosecutor on Monday voiced deep concern about a possible Israeli ground offensive into Rafah in Gaza, warning that anyone breaching international law would be held accountable.

Karim Khan said in a statement published on X, formerly Twitter, that his office's investigation into events in Gaza is "being taken forward as a matter of the utmost urgency".

"I am deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah," he said.

The ICC opened a probe in 2021 into Israel as well as Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups for possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Khan has previously said this investigation now "extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence since the attacks that took place on October 7, 2023".

"All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning," he said.

"This has been my consistent message, including from Ramallah last year. Since that time, I have not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel," he said.

Opening its doors in 2002, the ICC is the world's only independent court set up to probe the gravest offences including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It is a "court of last resort" and only steps in if countries are unwilling or unable to investigate cases themselves.

"As I have repeatedly emphasised, those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my Office takes action pursuant to its mandate," warned Khan.

"To all those involved: my Office is actively investigating any crimes allegedly committed. Those who are in breach of the law will be held accountable."

Khan called for the release of all hostages held by Hamas: "This also represents an important focus of our investigations."

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