The International Criminal Court has opened a probe into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territory, much to the chagrin of the United States, which condemned it as a "tragic irony".
The court said in a statement on Friday that it will investigate war crimes since last June with "full independence and impartiality", and the probe is likely to be focused on the 50-day Israel-Hamas war in Gaza that killed 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.
Palestinians will officially become permanent members of the criminal court from 1 April, after they ratified the Rome Statute earlier this month, thus letting the court investigate war crimes in the strife-torn region for the first time.
Israel and the United States reacted sharply to ICC's move, which is likely to put the former in the dock for war crimes.
"It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinised by the ICC," US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said, according to AFP. "We strongly disagree with the ICC prosecutor's action today".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the ICC move was based on an "outrageous request" by the Palestinians.
"Israel completely rejects the ICC prosecutor's announcement about opening a preliminary examination on the basis of the outrageous request by the Palestinian Authority," he said in a written statement, according to Reuters.
Israel had reacted sharply to Palestine's entry into the ICC by freezing of tax funds of more than $100 million collected on behalf of Palestinians.
The United States has also stated that it will review its annual $440 million aid package to Palestine.