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ICC to Probe Possible Arab-Israeli War Crimes

FILE - A man stands in rubble of his house, destroyed in this year's Israel-Hamas conflict, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City, Nov. 24, 2014.

The International Criminal Court is opening a preliminary probe into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

The examination announced Friday will determine whether a full investigation is merited.

If a full probe does go forward, it would open the door for charges against Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The announcement comes two weeks after the Palestinian Authority submitted documents to the United Nations to join the Hague-based court, known as the ICC.

The move angered Israel and drew concern from the United States, which labeled it counterproductive and said it does nothing to further Palestinian aspirations for an independent state.

But the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., Riyad Mansour called it a "very significant step" that is necessary to seek justice for crimes against the Palestinian people.

The ambassador said the Palestinians are seeking retroactive jurisdiction from the ICC regarding crimes committed during last year's war in Gaza.

The document handover was the last formal step for the Palestinians to join the ICC, a process that takes at least 60 days.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the documents after the U.N. Security Council rejected a draft resolution setting a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel after the 1967 war.

Israel responded by freezing $125 million in Palestinian tax revenues. The Palestinians rely on that monthly money transfer from Israel to run their government and pay the salaries of civil servants. Both the European Union and the U.S. criticized Israel's decision.

By becoming members of the ICC, the Palestinians also open themselves up to counter-charges of war crimes.

The U.N. formed the ICC in 1998. The court is considered an independent judicial institution, and is not supervised by the United Nations. It prosecutes suspects accused of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity. The court has no power to make arrests, but it does have the authority to issue arrest warrants, which can make it a problem for suspects to travel.

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