BEIRUT: Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil Friday condemned Israel's actions in Gaza, and ISIS' against Iraq’s Christians, as “war crimes,” saying that the government has approved the ministry’s request to the ICC to launch probes into the recent events.
For the first time in its diplomatic history, Lebanon sent requests to the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by Israel in its offensive on the Palestinian enclave and those committed by ISIS in Mosul, Bassil said, noting that the violations fall within the court’s jurisdiction.
Speaking at a news conference, Bassil said the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria has forced the exodus of some 15,000 Christians in Mosul with “only a hundred elderly residents stay[ing] behind and convert[ing] to Islam under pressure.”
He said some 32 churches and monasteries were either destroyed, torched or turned into a Muslim place of worship, warning such behavior not only threatened the old inhabitants of Mosul but also Lebanon’s existence.
“Such behavior contradicts Lebanon’s model and places Lebanon’s existence at risk,” Bassil told reporters.
“It has a direct impact on Lebanon -- a psychological and material impact -- as these groups have made their intention of expansion clear.”
Earlier this month, ISIS gave Christians in Iraq’s northern area an ultimatum to submit to Islamic rule by either converting or paying an annual tax to the state, or leave on threat of death -- forcing hundreds of families to flee the ancient city.
“Christians are being rooted out of their homeland for the first time and they have never taken part in the regional conflict,” he said.
Bassil equated ISIS with Israel, saying both sides refrain from recognizing international law and that the Jewish state sought to “replace the Palestinian, Arab, Levant identity in the east -- where diverse groups have lived together and recognized each other’s freedoms -- with the Jewish identity of elimination.”
At least 828 Palestinians have been killed in 18 days since Israel launched its offensive on the Gaza Strip, creating a humanitarian crisis in which residents suffer from severe water and electricity rationing as they remain under heavy siege.
Hamas on its part has fired dozens of rockets and reached the heart of the Jewish state, which Thursday targeted a UNRWA school, killing 15 people who were sheltering there.
Bassil said that in 2012 the Palestinian Authority filed a request to the ICC to investigate Israel’s war crimes, and that his ministry asked the prosecution in that case to begin its investigation.
The ICC has jurisdiction with respect to war crimes, in particular those committed as part of a plan or policy, or as part of a large-scale commission. War crimes include willful killing, extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and unlawful deportation.
“Although Lebanon has not signed on the ICC's jurisdiction, the country still has the right to submit requests, seeking international action,” the minister said.