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The International Criminal Court has rejected a Palestinian Authority bid to clear the way for the permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008. Prosecutors listened to lawyers supporting the Palestinian bid and Israel’s rejection of it before reaching Tuesday’s decision, but ruled that Palestinians could not sign up for the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, as only internationally recognized states can join the court.

NGO Monitor, an Israeli watchdog that focuses on non-governmental organizations critical of Israel, hailed the ruling as “a strong rebuke” to rights groups who had lobbied on behalf of the Palestinian bid. “International arenas are routinely hijacked for political purposes, but today’s decision was markedly different,” said Anne Herzberg, legal adviser for NGO Monitor.