Palestine’s Hamas resistance movement has urged the Arab League to file a lawsuit with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel over its recent killings of over a dozen Palestinians during anti-occupation mass rallies in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh made the request during a phone conversation with Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Monday.
Haniyeh’s call for an ICC investigation came after the death toll from Friday’s Israeli attacks on Palestinian protesters along the border fence between Gaza and the occupied territories rose to 18.
The Palestinian Health Ministry updated the number of the fatalities, after 29-year-old protester Fares al-Raqib succumbed to his wounds.
On Friday, around 30,000 Gazans marched to the fence with the occupied lands at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” demanding the right to return for Palestinians driven out of their homeland.
The rallies coincided with the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the murder of six Palestinians by Israeli forces in 1976.
Friday’s demonstrations turned violent after Israeli forces used tear gas and live fire to force back demonstrators who had approached within a few hundred meters of the heavily-fortified fence.
In addition to the 18 killed, almost 1,500 Gazans were also injured during the clashes.
The Return rallies culminate on May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe) when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes in 1948, the year Israel was created.
The United Nations Security Council also held an urgent meeting on Saturday to discuss the situation in Gaza, but the 15-member body failed to condemn the Israeli bloodshed.
Elsewhere in his phone call with Aboul Gheit, Haniyeh underlined the need “to go to the UN General Assembly to discuss the [Israeli] crime and form a special investigation commission,” according to a statement by the Hamas chief’s office.
Aboul Gheit, for his part, decried the “Israeli crime against participants in the peaceful rally.”
The Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, has rejected calls for a probe into the killing of Palestinians by the regime forces, saying, “We shall not cooperate with any commission of inquiry.”
The Israeli military has also threatened to step up its “response” if tensions continue on the Gaza fence.
Arab League to meet on Gaza
Haniyeh’s phone call came on the eve of an emergency Arab League meeting on the Gaza carnage.
Saeed Abu Ali, the 22-member pan-Arab body’s assistant secretary general for Palestine and the occupied Arab territories, told the Palestinian Wafa news agency that the meeting will focus on “the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people.”
He also noted that the Arab League is closely following the developments after the “Israeli massacre against peaceful civilians” in Gaza.
The official further called on the international community to put an immediate halt to “the Israeli crimes” and to provide Palestinian people with protection.