The first case the Palestinians will refer to the International Criminal Court will be the crimes Israel committed during summer 2014, including the Gaza war, a legal expert said Sunday.
Last Friday, the Palestinians presented a formal request to join the Hague-based court in a move which opens the way for them to file suit against Israeli officials for war crimes in the occupied territories.
Israel for its part threatened to take tougher action against the Palestinians over their decision to join the International Criminal Court, a day after freezing the transfer of more than $100 million in tax funds, saying it could take the Palestinians to the court as well.
"We will not let (IDF) soldiers and officers be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague," Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "Those who should face justice are the heads of the Palestinian Authority who signed a covenant with the war criminals of Hamas," he said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat confirmed Gaza would be one of the cases referred to the court, but also said there would be a file put together on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, land seized during the 1967 Six-Day War.
"The main files will be the aggression against Gaza and the settlement file, since this is a continuous crime," Erakat said on Sunday.
The ICC can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the court's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, came into force. If the application process goes as planned, the Palestinians should be able to refer a case in early April, with legal preparations to that end already well under way.
Shawan Jabarin, director of the Ramallah-based rights group Al-Haq, said the Palestinians had decided to file suit over Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip starting from June 13, 2014.
That was the date Israel began a massive crackdown in the West Bank after the kidnapping and subsequent murder by Hamas terrorists of three Israeli teenagers, triggering a series of events which led to the seven-week Gaza war that killed about 2,200 Palestinians, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, including around 500 children.
Seventy-three people died on the Israeli side, the majority of them soldiers, after Israel's Iron Dome rocket system prevent thousands of rocket from hitting residential area in Israel.
Cases referred to the ICC need "a very specific geographic location and timeframe," Jabarin told AFP, saying the same date had been selected by a UN commission probing rights violations during the Gaza war and the period leading up to it.
Following the teens' kidnap on June 12, Israel began Operation Brother's Keeper, its biggest arrest sweep of the West Bank in years, arresting more than 2,000 Palestinians and killing about seven in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
On June 30, Israel announced that it had found the bodies of the three, unleashing a wave of national grief and anger that saw three Israeli extremist settlers kidnap and burn alive a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem in revenge, which itself triggered furious protests in majority-Palestinian sectors of the city.
Rocket fire from Gaza also increased as a result of Israeli attacks in the West Bank, reaching up to 70 a day, which quickly escalated into all-assault which lasted 50 days in the form of Operation Protective Edge.
At the same time, the unrest in East Jerusalem continued unabated until late in the year, and included a number of deadly lone-wolf attacks on Israelis.
Israel may also file countersuits against top Palestinian officials, a source close to the government said on Friday.
Israeli legal officials said that while the Palestinian decision to join the ICC could be "a nuisance for Israel, it would not yield any practical legal results".
And a high-ranking legal official said Israel was ready to counter with its own lawsuits against senior Palestinian officials immediately.
The basis of the complaints would be that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's partnership in a consensus government with Hamas makes him complicit in the militant Islamist group's attacks from Gaza on civilians in Israel.
"These lawsuits, which are backed up with evidence, documents and affidavits, can be filed as early as tomorrow morning," a high-ranking legal official said.