AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A delegation of prosecutors from the International Criminal Court is starting a five-day visit on Wednesday to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the court said, describing it as an outreach trip that will not be gathering any evidence.
The visit is potentially sensitive because the ICC is conducting a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes committed by either side during a 50-day war in 2014 between Israel and Islamist Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority joined the ICC in early 2015, over the protests of Israel, the United States and most of the court’s European backers, who have said any legal action the Palestinians might attempt against Israel in The Hague risks further damaging the already-stalled Middle East peace process.
After initially refusing cooperation, Israel is holding discussions with ICC prosecutors over their initial Gaza probe.
The ICC stressed that this month’s trip was intended to undertake outreach and education activities in order to raise awareness about its work.
“The delegation will not engage in evidence collection in relation to any alleged crimes; neither will the delegation undertake site visits, or assess the adequacy of the respective legal systems to deal with crimes that fall within ICC jurisdiction,” it said.
The team will visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah and will hold meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Health officials have said more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, died in the 2014 war. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Israel has argued that the Palestinian Authority is not a sovereign state and has no right to formal relations with the first permanent international war crimes court.
Reporting by Anthony Deutsch, editing by Mark Trevelyan