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Israeli farmers living adjacent to Gaza border communities will file a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court on Monday against senior Hamas leaders over the flying of hundreds of flaming “terror kites” from the Palestinian enclave into Israeli territory during several months of protests.
Around 50,000 “concerned co-petitioners from around the globe” signed the appeal which accuses the Gaza-based militant group of “launching thousands of kites armed with incendiary devices…that resulted in the destruction of residential property and thousands of acres of torched agricultural fields.”
The farmers are calling on ICC prosecutors to open an investigation into “war crimes” committed by Hamas leaders “and in particular their orders to breach the border of Israel with the intent of murdering and kidnapping civilians,” a press release said.
The flaming kites became a widely adopted tactic during the “March of Return” protests that began on March 30 and have continued weekly with almost 170 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire; at least 50 of whom are said to be Hamas members.
Singling out three leading Hamas orchestrators — Khaled Mashal, Saleh al-Arouri and Zaher Jabarin — the complaint charges them with “systematically organizing” the attacks and urging their members “to murder, slaughter, burn and never show them [Israelis] mercy.”
The statement explains how Hamas has ferried tens of thousands of Gazans to the border on a weekly basis and used propaganda videos to inform civilians that the purpose of burning tyres was to mask the movements of its armed militants.
According to the farmers, the perpetrators violated the Rome Statute which “prohibits the murder of non-combatants, the destruction of civilian property for unlawful purposes and the use of civilians as human shields.”
“The Rome Statute, which the Palestinians so cynically signed, cannot serve as a one-sided shield for Hamas’ murderous terrorism,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, President of the Shurat HaDin NGO which is helping file the suit, said in a statement.
The coalition of farmers are set to appear outside the ICC in The Hague with tractors and a photo exhibition of the damage inflicted upon their torched fields, which they estimated at “hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.”
The complaint comes in response to the Palestinian Authority’s filing of a referral at the ICC last week, which called on the international court to “open an immediate investigation" into allegations of war crimes and apartheid against the Palestinian people.
“We are demanding the ICC put an end to this hypocrisy and diligently investigate these Palestinian war crimes and bring the perpetrators in Gaza to justice,” Darshan-Leitner continued, “the Farmers' communication is a vital test for the ICC’s integrity and the prosecutors’ determination.”
Some 300 kites affixed to containers of burning fuel have been launched into Israeli territory in the past month, sparking more than 100 blazes.
On at least one occasion, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has responded to such “kite attacks” by striking a Hamas post near the border fence.