Palestinians warn Israel must be held accountable over settlements

UNITED NATIONS Tue Dec 4, 2012 11:38pm IST

A Palestinian girl looks at a soccer stadium, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike during an eight-day conflict, in Gaza City December 4, 2012. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

A Palestinian girl looks at a soccer stadium, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike during an eight-day conflict, in Gaza City December 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Suhaib Salem

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Palestinians accused Israel in a letter to the United Nations of planning to commit further "war crimes" by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable.

In the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council, the Palestinians said Israel was behaving "in a rogue, hostile and arrogant manner, contravening all principles and rules of international law and reacting with contempt to the will of the international community."

After the U.N. General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians' status at the world body on Thursday from "observer entity" to "non-member state," Israel said on Friday it would build 3,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas Palestinians want for a future state, along with Gaza.

Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"A clear message must be sent to Israel that all of its illegal policies must be ceased or that it will be held accountable and will have to bear the consequences if its violations and obstruction of peace efforts," Palestinian U.N. observer Riyad Mansour wrote in the letter dated Monday.

After winning the U.N. status upgrade, the Palestinians can now access the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which prosecutes people for genocide, war crimes and other major human rights violations and where it could complain about Israel.

The Palestinians have said they will not rush to sign up to the International Criminal Court, but have warned that seeking action against Israel in the court would remain an option if Israel continued to build illegal settlements.

Prior to the U.N. vote, some Western nations unsuccessfully pushed for a Palestinian pledge not to pursue Israel in the ICC.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott)

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