Aaron Gray-Block
February 3, 2009 - 1:00am

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in The Hague has launched a "preliminary analysis" to establish whether Israel committed war crimes in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, the prosecutor said on Tuesday.

Documents also showed that the Palestinian National Authority has recognised the jurisdiction of the ICC, in a move designed to allow investigations of alleged crimes in the Palestinian territories.

The ICC prosecutor's office said it had received 210 communications from individuals and non-governmental organisations regarding events in Gaza.

"The office of the prosecutor will carefully examine all relevant issues, including on jurisdiction," the prosecutor said in a statement.

The Israeli army waged a three-week war in Gaza against Hamas militants, but Israeli officials deny accusations of war crimes arising from the fighting.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay last month called for independent investigations into possible war crimes after Israel's shelling of a U.N. school compound killed 42 people, including women and children, on January 6.

Israel says the area near the compound was being used by militants to fire rockets.

U.N. officials also said war crimes may have been committed after Israeli tank fire killed two boys in another U.N. school.

Israel has not signed the Rome Statute creating the ICC.

The ICC can investigate alleged war crimes in the territory of a state party, if the U.N. Security Council refers a situation to the court or if a non-state party voluntarily accepts the jurisdiction of the court.

But the prosecutor added that the preliminary analysis does not necessarily mean an investigation will be opened.

The new U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said last week that Israel must investigate allegations its army violated international law.

Some 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians, were killed during Israel's Gaza offensive, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the territory. Israel put its losses at 10 soldiers and three civilians.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)


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