Five countries seek ICC investigation into Gaza war crimes
Five countries, including South Africa and Bangladesh, on Friday called for an International Criminal Court investigation into Israel's indiscriminate war on the Gaza Strip, which has left over 12,000 people, among them more than 5,000 children dead.
ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros and Djibouti - all ICC members - had sought an investigation of "the situation in the state of Palestine".
Khan said in a statement that an investigation into events in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank started in March 2021 now "extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence since the attacks that took place on October, 2023."
Khan, who recently went to the main crossing point between Gaza and Egypt, said his team had collected a "significant volume " of evidence on "relevant incidents" in the war.
Families of some of the Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in their October 7 attacks on Israel have also sought ICC action.
Khan appealed for more evidence to be submitted and added: "I will also continue my efforts to visit the state of Palestine and Israel in order to meet with survivors, hear from civil society organisations and engage with relevant national counterparts."
Israel is not an ICC member and Khan said: "I call upon all relevant actors to provide full cooperation with my office."
Israel says that 239 people from several countries were seized by Hamas when its fighters staged the October 7 attacks in which some 1,200 people killed.
The hostage plight has become a major issue in Israel as it has pursued an indiscriminate air and ground campaign in Gaza, destroying tens of thousands of residential homes, besieging hospitals, and targeting schools and places of worship.
While lawyers for the families of some of the Gaza Palestinian dead have sought ICC action, families of Israeli hostages have demanded that Khan issue warrants for Hamas leaders.
"The inquiry is advancing," Francois Zimeray, a lawyer for nine of the Israeli families, told AFP after the meeting.
Any person or group can make a request to the ICC but it is not obliged to take up a case.
Legal experts have told AFP that Hamas and Israel could face war crimes charges over the conflict.
The ICC inquiry started in 2021 was into alleged war crimes by Israeli forces, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.
Even though Israel is not an ICC state party, Zimeray said: "We have Israelis who trust the court, the sincerity of the prosecutor and the professionalism of his team."