Five countries, including South Africa and Bangladesh, have called for an International Criminal Court investigation into Israel's war on besieged Gaza that has left thousands of people dead, its chief prosecutor said.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said on Friday that 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 besieged Gaza 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 besieged Gaza and Egypt, said his team had collected a "significant volume" of evidence on "relevant incidents" in the war.
He 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."
"I call upon all relevant actors to provide full cooperation with my office," Khan added — though Israel is not an ICC member.
South Africa's Foreign Ministry said it was urging fellow ICC members to join the referral seeking an investigation.
"South Africa remains committed to ending impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and it is hoped that the situation in Palestine will be prioritised by the ICC in order to deliver justice to the victims of these grave crimes," it said.
Appeals from both sides
Just as lawyers for the families of some of the Gaza Palestinian dead have sought ICC action, families for the Israeli hostages demanded that Khan issue warrants for Hamas leaders.
"The inquiry is advancing," Francois Zimeray, a lawyer for nine of the families, told AFP news agency after the meeting.
He said he submitted a dossier on behalf of some of the families who want warrants issued for war crimes and genocide.
Any person or group can request the ICC, but it is not obliged to take up a case.
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."
The ICC can investigate nationals of non-member states in certain circumstances, including when crimes are alleged to have been committed in the territories of member states.
Palestine has been listed among the ICC's members since 2015.
Israel's war on besieged Gaza has killed at least 12,000, 5,000 of them children and 3,300 women.
The Israeli death toll stands at 1,200, according to Tel Aviv, which revised down the toll from 1,400 earlier.