The United States has joined Israel in condemning a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a preliminary probe into possible war crimes committed against Palestinians, describing the move as a "tragic irony".

The US criticised the decision late on Friday, saying it opposed actions against its ally Israel as "counterproductive to the cause of peace".

"It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighbourhoods, is now being scrutinised by the ICC," Jeff Rathke, the US State department spokesman, said in a statement.

Palestinian statehood: a lost cause?

US condemnation came shortly after Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, derided the ICC's decision, calling it "scandalous" and "absurd".

Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official and advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, told Al Jazeera the Palestinians were prepared for any outcome by the ICC.

"We want to put pressure on Israel that has been murdering our people, occupying our land, stealing our water and destroying Gaza," he said.

"This occupation by Israel has to end, negotiations chaperoned by America have not been successful, on the contrary, we have failed, and now we have to go through the international arena."

Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the ICC's announcement, saying it "could pave the way for thousands of victims of crimes under international law to gain access to justice".

While 123 countries have ratified the Rome Statute, the charter that led to the formation of the ICC, Israel and the US are not party to the court. 

The ICC, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, will open a preliminary inquiry into the possible war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, and determine whether its findings merit a full investigation.

The outcome could result in charges against individuals on either the Israeli or Palestinian side.

Although Israel is not an ICC member, its citizens could be tried on accusations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

This means the court's prosecutor could investigate the 50-day war between Israel and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip in July and August 2014, during which more than 2,300 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel said 67 soldiers and six civilians died in the same war.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from the West Bank city of Ramallah, Ammar Hijazi, a Palestinian foreign ministry official, said the Palestinian Authority believed that all necessary aspects were featured in the case.

"Palestine is ready to fully cooperate if there are any violations commited during the war by the Palestinian side as well," he said.

The Palestinians decision to join the Rome Statute of the ICC and other international treaties has heightened tensions with Israel, with Netanyahu freezing the transfer of $127m in tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority.

The tax revenues make up two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority's annual budget, excluding foreign aid.

More than 2,300 Palestinians were killed during Israel's July-August offensive in Gaza [AP]


Source: Al Jazeera and agencies