Israel says it will not cooperate with an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into possible war crimes in the occupied territories.
In a letter to the court, Israel says the ICC is “acting without authority” in carrying out the probe.
The ICC gave both Israel and the Palestinians, who instigated the action, until Friday to respond.
The issue threatens to further damage already strained relations between the two sides.
Last month, Israeli authorities cancelled the VIP travel pass of the Palestinian foreign minister on his return to the Israeli-occupied West Bank from talks with ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, Palestinian officials said.
Based in The Hague, the ICC was set up in 2002 to bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It has the power to act where a state is “unable or unwilling genuinely” to do so itself.
If Israel blocks ICC investigators on the ground, witness testimonies could be taken in other countries or at The Hague in the Netherlands instead.
The case is expected to focus on three main areas: the Israel-Gaza war of 2014; violence along the Israel-Gaza border in 2018 amid Palestinian demonstrations backing the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to ancestral homes in what is now Israel; and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, considered illegal under international law – a point disputed by Israel.
The investigation puts both Israeli and Palestinian officials at risk of arrest if they travel abroad.