The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo gives a press conference on March 15, 2012 in The Hague.
Credit: Jerry Lampen

The International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected a Palestinian Authority proposal to begin a permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate the Israeli military offensive - Operation "Cast Lead" - in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008.

The bid was stopped Tuesday after prosecutors listened to both Palestinian and Israeli lawyers make their case for and against the tribunal.

The ICC ruled that it could not investigate alleged war crimes as Palestine could not sign the court's founding treaty, which is only open to UN member states.

"The office [of the prosecutor] has assessed that it is for the relevant bodies at the UN or the Assembly of State Parties to make a legal determination whether Palestine qualifies as a state for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute [the court's founding treaty]," the ICC prosecutor's office said in a statement on Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera.

According to Haaretz, the ICC explained that "Palestine has been recognized as a State in bilateral relations by more than 130 governments and by certain international organisations, including United Nation bodies. However, the current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of “observer”, not as a “Non-member State”."

The Palestinian bid for a tribunal began in 2009 when  Justice Minister Ali Khashan wrote the ICC, recognizing its authority over the territory.

Operation Cast Lead began in 2009 in order to crush the militant group Hamas, which governs the tiny strip of land, and to end rocket fire on Israeli cities.

Israel has admitted to making errors during the operation that killed over 1000 Palestinians and 14 Israelis but has denied that it committed war crimes.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Israel's reaction to the ICC decision was mixed.

"While Israel welcomes the decision on the lack of the ICC jurisdiction, it has reservations regarding some of the legal pronouncements and assumptions in the prosecutor’s statements," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A 2009 report by South African jurist Richard Goldstone that was endorsed by the United Nations, said that both Israel and Hamas delibrately targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Goldstone later reconsidered whether Israel had targeted Palestinian civilians in a newspaper article but has yet to officially retract those allegations from his report.

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