Israeli victims' families urge ICC to investigate Oct. 7 Hamas attacks

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Israeli families of victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks appealed on Tuesday to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to order an investigation into the killings and abductions, despite Israel's opposition to the court.

Tel Aviv-based international lawyer Yael Vias Gvirsman who represents the families of more than 34 victims of the Hamas attacks, including hostages, missing persons and people killed, filed a so-called 'article 15 communication' with the ICC prosecutor.

Israel is not a member of the Hague-based ICC and refuses to recognise the court's jurisdiction.

The filing urges ICC prosecutor Karim Khan to focus his investigation on Hamas' Oct. 7 actions in southern Israel, including enforced disappearances, which the court views as a crime against humanity.

"Hamas nearly killed by entire close family. My struggle is to bring justice," Galit, whose 12-year-old daughter and 80-year-old mother were killed in the attacks, told Reuters via text messages shared by her lawyer. She joined the ICC filings but did not want to give her full name over privacy concerns.

The prosecutor's office confirmed to Reuters that it had received the filing and that the information was being assessed.

The ICC already has an ongoing investigation into any alleged crimes within its jurisdiction committed on Palestinian territory and by Palestinians on the territory of Israel.

In 2021 ICC judges ruled that the court has jurisdiction after the Palestinian authorities signed up to the court in 2015 and were granted United Nations observer state status.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the time called the decision a "perversion of justice". Despite the government's stance, lawyer Vias Gvirsman remained hopeful.

"Maybe, under these very specific circumstances, the authorities can come to an agreement for a very specific investigation in the territory" of Israel, she told Reuters.

Prosecutor Khan, who has been on a mission to the region, said on Sunday in Egypt that he had intensified his efforts to get into Gaza and Israel to meet with victims' families but had so far been unsuccessful.

A court of last resort, the ICC can only step in when any of its 124 member states is unwilling or unable to prosecute alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Gareth Jones and Sandra Maler)