BEIRUT: Lebanon sent requests to the International Criminal Court’s general prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by Israel in its offensive on Gaza and those committed by extremists in Iraq, said Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, adding that the violations fall within the court’s jurisdiction.
Speaking at a news conference, Bassil said the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria had 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 north an ultimatum to submit to Islamic rule by either converting or paying a religious tax to the state known as Jizyah, 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,” Bassil said.
Bassil equated ISIS with Israel, saying both sides refrained 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 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 hoped that the ICC would launch an investigation into the recent assault on Gaza in light of Lebanon’s letter. 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.