The Palestinian Authority is expected to submit files on 145 Israeli settlements in the West Bank to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague this month, a Palestinian cartographer said on Monday.
According to Jordanian daily Al Ghad, Khalil Tufakji, head of the Maps and Survey Department at Jerusalem’s Orient House, said that a team of geographers and legal experts is currently assembling maps, Israeli military orders and aerial photographs documenting settlement construction from 1997 until today as part of a legal case being prepared against Israel.
“The Israeli occupation steals Palestinian land under the pretext of establishing ‘nature reserves,’ ‘green areas,’ or what’s known as ‘state property’ or ‘military zones,'” Tufakji told Al Ghad. “We will submit 160 files on 145 settlements in the West Bank, encompassing some 400,000 settlers, in addition to 15 settlements in occupied Jerusalem encompassing some 200,000 settlers. Altogether, [the files] will cover over half a million settlers living on land designated for the future Palestinian state.”
After signing the court’s founding treaty last December, the Palestinian Authority officially joined ICC on April. Israel can be brought before the court even though it is not a member of ICC.
Tufakji said he and his team were operating on directives from Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas, who assembled legal teams to collect damning information on Israeli activities. On Feb. 7, Abbas issued a presidential decree establishing a “High National Committee to Coordinate With the ICC” headed by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. According to the decree, the committee is charged with “preparing documents and files to be submitted by the State of Palestine to the ICC through a technical committee headed by the foreign ministry.”
As a non-official department, the Maps and Survey Department, housed in a 19th century villa which served as the PLO headquarters until 2001,advises Palestinian ministries on “settlement expansion, land use, and water aquifers” and collects maps “directly related to land confiscation from 1967 until today.”
“The aerial photos currently obtained by the Palestinians date back to 1997,” Tufakji told al-Ghad. “Information relating to the past two years … was collected based on a request from the legal team,” he added.