The United States firmly opposes the announcement by the International Criminal Court prosecutor that her office will formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday.
"We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly, the ICC ... has no jurisdiction over this matter," Price told a regular news briefing, referring to the prosecutor's announcement earlier Wednesday.
The outgoing ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that her office will open a formal investigation into war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during a period beginning June 13, 2014, just three weeks before the start of the 2014 Gaza war between Hamas and Israel.
"The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years," said Bensouda, who leaves office in June, in a statement published on the ICC website.
She said the probe would be conducted "independently, impartially and objectively, without fear or favor."
Israeli officials requested the assistance of the U.S. administration in recent weeks in anticipation of the ICC decision.
The matter was raised in discussions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden in February and in Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi's discussions with his American counterpart.
Biden has yet to lift the sanctions on Bensouda and her court associates imposed by predecessor Donald Trump in June 2020 over plans to investigate Israeli and American military actions.
Israeli officials have previously accused the court of overstepping its bounds, saying Israel has been unfairly singled out. They reject the allegations, saying military actions in Gaza were acts of self-defense and the status of the West Bank is disputed and must be resolved through negotiations.
While the court would have a hard time prosecuting Israelis, it could issue arrest warrants that would make it difficult for Israeli officials to travel abroad.
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the ICC decision on Wednesday.
The PA Foreign Ministry called it "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."
Hamas also welcomed the initiation of the investigation and called on Bensouda to "resist any pressure" that could scuttle the process.
The prosecutor has said in the past that any investigation should include the terror group for its indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli territory.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that the terror group, which has ruled Gaza since a bloody 2007 takeover, "is totally certain that its resistance of the occupation is legitimate" under international law.