GAZA CITY, Palestine

Hamas denounced on Thursday remarks by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier regarding the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) authority to investigate Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

“The remarks of the German president about the lack of jurisdiction of the ICC to hold the occupation accountable for its crimes are a violation of international law and a clear bias towards the occupation and its aggressive policy against the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.

“The position of the German president encourages the occupation to continue its crimes and aggression, and makes the occupation entity above international law,” he said.

Steinmeier told Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday that his country considers the ICC has no jurisdiction to investigate Israeli war crimes in Palestinian territories because of the “absence of the Palestinian state” and considers it a “violation of the international law.”

Hamas demanded Steinmeier “stop his discrimination in granting Israel immunity and impunity from accountability and punishment as well as considering it a state above the law.”

Earlier Thursday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned Steinmeier’s statements as “withdrawal from the rules of international law” and interference with ICC’s work and decisions.

The ICC opened a formal investigation in March into alleged war crimes in Palestinian territories after five years of preliminary inquiries.

The probe was before new tensions erupted that were centered on the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

Former ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the investigation would “cover all sides and all the facts and evidence relevant to an assessment of whether there is individual criminal responsibility under the [ICC] Statute.”

Based on the relevant UN resolution, the ICC found that the Court has territorial jurisdiction in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have been under Israeli occupation since 1967. The occupation is considered illegal under international law.

*Bassel Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara.

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