The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday welcomed the decision by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor to investigate potential war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
It is "a long-awaited step that serves Palestine's tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve," the PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Hamas also welcomed the initiation of the investigation and called on Bensouda to "resist any pressure" that could scuttle the process. Bensouda has said in the past that any investigation should include the terror group for its indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli territory.
"This is a step forward to implement justice, punish the occupation and do justice to the Palestinian people," said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.
Asked whether the investigation can also cover rocket attacks by his group, Qassem said that Hamas "is totally certain that its resistance of the occupation is legitimate" under international law.
The ICC announcement comes after the court ruled on Feb. 5 that it has jurisdiction in the case, a move which prompted swift rejection from Washington and Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ruling.
"The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years," Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.
"In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides," Bensouda said.
"My office will take the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized," she said.
Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019 that "war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip". She named both the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.
The next step will be to determine whether Israel or Palestinian authorities have investigations themselves and to assess those.
There was no immediate comment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When the court ruled on jurisdiction, he said: "When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-Semitism."