Amid criticism over Gaza 'inaction', ICC prosecutor says 'deeply concerned' by Rafah situation

Amid criticism over Gaza 'inaction', ICC prosecutor says 'deeply concerned' by Rafah situation
The city of Rafah, which holds roughly 1.5 million people, most of whom are internally displaced from other parts of Gaza, is awaiting an Israeli assault.
3 min read
13 February, 2024
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has said the court has jurisdiction investigating crimes committed in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories [Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images]

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he was deeply concerned about reports of bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Khan posted on X after airstrikes in the city that is the last refuge of about a million displaced civilians.

The prosecutor said the court was "actively investigating any crimes allegedly committed" in Gaza and that "those who are in breach of the law will be held accountable".

He later told Reuters that half of the population of Gaza is currently concentrated around Rafah, "reportedly six times its normal concentration".

"When you have a population that is 60% children and women by all accounts, the risks to civilians are profound", he said.

"This situation is one that I give the utmost priority to. It's an issue that we're moving forward on."

Israel is not a member of the Hague-based court and does not recognise its jurisdiction. But Khan said in October his court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas Palestinian militants in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

Israel denies committing atrocities in its attacks on Gaza, which followed the Hamas cross-border raid on southern Israel on 7 October in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and around 240 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Khan has come under fire over his approach to Israel's war on Gaza, during which the ICC has not filed any charges against Israeli government or military leaders. This has been contrasted to Khan's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, when he swiftly indicted Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges.

The ICC prosecutor was also blocked from visiting Gaza by Israel, however accepted an invitation to visit the families of Israeli captives. 

According to Gaza's health authorities, Israel has killed 28,473 Palestinians with a further 68146 wounded, with over half of all Gaza's buildings damaged or destroyed according to analysis by BBC verify.

On Monday Amnesty International released a report detailing how four Israeli airstrikes that killed 95 civilians targeted buildings with no military value, adding to evidence that Israel is deliberately targeting civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office has said four Hamas battalions are in Rafah, and that Israel cannot achieve its goal of eliminating the Islamist militants while they remain there. Previous claims by Israel about Hamas targets, including alleged command centres under hospitals and tunnel entrances in civilian buildings, have not been substantiated.