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Hamas: Take our case to international court

By By Mariano Castillo CNN
Published On: Aug 23 2014 09:15:46 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 23 2014 03:21:15 PM CDT
Palestinians fly the Hamas flag
(CNN) -

Hamas is pushing a different tactic in its conflict with Israel, urging Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to go before the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders for war crimes.

The idea of pursuing an investigation into Israel by the international body is not new, but Hamas said on Saturday that it, too, has signed a document supporting such a move.

"Hamas has signed a document demanding Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) go to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders as war criminals for massacres they committed against our people," Hamas spokesman and senior official Izzat al-Risheq said on Twitter.

The support from Hamas is significant because it could come at a cost to the group itself. An investigation into war crimes could expose Hamas for its own violations.

Abbas, speaking in Cairo, said that all Palestinian factions would need to support such a bid before making the decision to go to the ICC.

The Palestinians are not currently under the jurisdiction of the ICC, but would be if they sign the court's Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court.

Back in May, a group of 17 human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, signed a letter to Abbas encouraging him to join the ICC.

The United States and Israel, among some other nations, have pressured Abbas not to take this step, arguing that it would harm peace talks.

Hamas' announcement comes a day after one of the group's leaders admitted that its militants were responsible for the abduction of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June.

Hamas Political Bureau member Saleh Aruri added that the kidnappers did not tell their leaders about the action. The kidnappings were not approved by Hamas leadership or its military wing, he said, stressing that this acknowledgment does not equate to a claim of responsibility.

"We at Hamas head command were not aware of this mission; we found out later," Hamas said in a statement Saturday. "We at Hamas political command do not know anything about the kidnapping; all information we have is from the Israeli investigation. But if this is true, this mission is considered self defense against the Israeli occupation."

The three teens were later found dead. Since then, violence has flared in the region.

The violence continued Saturday, as rockets fired from Gaza landed in Israel. The rocket alerts in Israeli communities near Gaza were continuous.

The Hamas rocket attacks struck in the same area where a 4-year-old boy was killed Friday.

Israel claimed that the mortar that killed the boy was launched from a school operated by the United Nations.

On Saturday, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said that Israel retracted that statement. The agency criticized Israeli media for repeating the claim without checking with them first.

"UNRWA deplores the killing of all children during this conflict, including the killing of the four-year-old Israeli child yesterday and the hundreds of Palestinian children killed since the start of the current fighting," the agency said in a statement. "We call on all parties to ensure protection and care of children affected by armed conflict, in accordance with their obligations under international law."

Also on Saturday, Al Aqsa, a TV station run by Hamas, reported that Israeli gunboats sank a Palestinian fishing vessel off the Port of Gaza.

A rocket from Lebanon struck an open area east of the town of Akko in northern Israel, though it wasn't clear who was responsible or if it had anything to do with Israel's fight with Hamas. No injuries or damage were reported, said Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

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