(MENAFN - The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) Resistance faction Hamas on Wednesday welcomed Palestine's official accession to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"This is a step in the right direction that will allow Palestinians to legally prosecute Israeli leaders," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told The Anadolu Agency.
"We hope the development will be a prelude to the prosecution of Israeli leaders and officials for their crimes against the Palestinian people," he added.
Earlier in the day, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki received written notification from the ICC that Palestine had been accepted as a full member, Palestinian state television reported Wednesday.
ICC spokesman Fadi al-Abdallah told AA that Palestine had become the court's 123rd member country.
Palestine officially joined the Rome Statute on Wednesday € an automatic procedure after the passage of two months since the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) filed its membership request with the United Nations, al-Abdallah said.
According to the spokesman, the PA can now formally request to have Israeli leaders referred to the court for alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory.
Palestinians, too, can be prosecuted by the court, as ICC prosecutors are mandated with identifying suspects.
In January, Palestinians formally delivered the UN papers ratifying the Rome Statute € the legal document establishing the court € with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acting as "depository."
The move came after an Arab draft resolution at the UN General Assembly aimed at ending the Israeli occupation failed to win the nine votes needed to pass, with the U.S. € Israel's longstanding, veto-wielding ally € voting against the motion.
Hours later, PA President Mahmoud Abbas applied for Palestinian membership in 18 international treaties, including the Rome Statute.
The ICC was established in 1998 as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses € such as war crimes and crimes against humanity € in cases where national court systems had failed.