Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki (C) leaves the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki (C) leaves the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague Reuters

The Palestinian foreign minister has met prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in a bid to launch an investigation into Israel's war crimes allegation after nearly one month of fighting in the Gaza Strip.

"In the last 28 days, there is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel amounting to crimes against humanity," Riad al-Malki told reporters.

The visit comes after Israel and Hamas agreed on a 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt. Both sides accused each other of violating the rules of war citing indiscriminate attack on civilians. Maliki asked the UN to end what he called Israel's impunity and said it "must be held accountable for its crimes".

But an Israeli official has warned Palestine will get counter-sued if it goes to the ICC over the Haza war. "We'll retaliate for any 'law rockets'," he said.

It is not the first time that the Palestinian Authority has threatened to resort to an international court to investigate war crimes committed by the Jewish state. In 2009, a UN fact-finding mission led by Richard Goldstone found that both Hamas and Israel had committed war crimes.

While Hamas openly recognise Israeli civilians as a legitimate target for rocket launches, Israel complained that they were singled out unfairly by a biased institution.

Goldstone later retracted his allegation that Israel targeted civilians as a matter of policy.

After the latest Gaza offensive, however, Navi Pillay, the UN human rights commissioner, said that the report is still valid. "What I'm seeing now is a recurrence of the very acts that the Gaza fact-finding mission (of Goldstone) indicating as constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity".

Investigating war crimes at the ICC is a complicated issue. Israel is not a member of the court, which was created originally to probe individuals for war crimes and is considered a court of "last resort", when all the other options are unavailable.

The only option for the court to investigate Israel is if a UN Security Council resolution approves it - but the United States, a permanent member of the Council and Israel's strongest ally, will likely veto any proposal of this sort.

A significant difference to 2009 is that this time Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas can turn directly to the ICC thanks to the 2012 upgrade of "Palestine" to non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly in 2012.

Abbas is increasingly under pressure to join the ICC after the latest Gaza carnage, a move that could also offer the opportunity to hold Israel accountable for the expansionist settlement policy in the West Bank.

But a possible UN investigation could alienate Western support, most notably the United States, and anger Palestinian militant group Hamas, which can be accused of the same crimes. The Palestinian president asked Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader in exile, to agree in writing on an ICC bid, Abbas aide Saeb Erekat told AP.

In the meantime, the Human Rights Council has established a commission of inquiry into violations committed "in the context of the military operations since 13 June 2014".

Amnesty International has called on the ICC to investigate war crimes by all sides in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

More than 1,800 Palestinians, mainly civilians, and 67 Israelis, mainly soldiers, have been killed since fighting began on 8 July.