The Palestinians have submitted documents to the United Nations to join the International Criminal Court, a move that will enable them to seek war crimes charges against Israel.
The Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, and a U.N. spokesman on Friday confirmed the handover of the documents at U.N headquarters.
Mansour said the move is a "very significant step" that is necessary to seek justice for alleged crimes against the Palestinian people. He also said the Palestinians are seeking retroactive jurisdiction from the ICC regarding crimes committed during last year's Gaza war.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the documents after the U.N. Security Council rejected a resolution earlier this week setting a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.
Abbas said the Palestinians want to complain about what he called aggression against them and their land.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened unspecified retaliation for the Palestinians' request to join the ICC.
The International Criminal Court has recognized the U.N. General Assembly's recognition of Palestine as an observer state. Handing over the documents was the last formal step for the Palestinians to become a member of the ICC, which would take at least 60 days.
The United States has said it is deeply troubled by the Palestinians' action. A State Department spokesman said the move is counterproductive and does nothing to further Palestinian aspirations for an independent state.
On Friday, a senior U.S. official told the Reuters news agency that the Palestinian action to join ICC could have implications for U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.
By becoming members of the ICC, the Palestinians also could open themselves up to countercharges of war crimes from others.
The U.N. formed the court to prosecute suspects accused of genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity. It has no power to make arrests but does have the authority to issue arrest warrants, which could make it a problem for suspects to travel.