Palestinians studying war crimes charges

Toll from conflict has spurred Abbas

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking written pledges of support from all political factions, including rival Hamas, before making any attempt to press for possible war crimes charges against Israel, senior officials said Thursday.

Abbas hesitated in the past because such a step would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile and could put him on a collision course with the United States.

But with nearly 1,400 Palestinians killed in Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza in the past 24 days, according to health officials, Abbas is under growing domestic pressure to turn to the International Criminal Court to try to make a case against Israel.


Israeli officials have said Israel is acting in self-defense by targeting Hamas’s military arsenal and rocket launching sites and have accused Hamas of using Gaza civilians as human shields.

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Earlier Thursday, the top human rights official for the United Nations accused both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes in the current Gaza fighting.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Hamas is committing war crimes by firing rockets from heavily populated areas and storing them in schools and hospitals.

She said Israel has defied international law in Gaza by attacking civilian areas with schools, hospitals, homes, and UN facilities.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined to comment.


Hamas has portrayed its rocket fire on Israel as resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

With the Palestinian casualties in Gaza mounting, leaders of political factions in the West Bank have repeatedly urged Abbas to seek Palestinian accession to the International Criminal Court.

‘‘We have been pressing him for a long time,’’ independent legislator Mustafa Barghouti said Thursday. At a meeting with political leaders Tuesday, Abbas asked participants to sign a declaration of support for such a move, said Barghouti, adding that everyone signed.