A Palestinian official said Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki was arrested on Sunday as he entered the occupied West Bank from Jordan through the Israel-controlled crossing point.
Al-Maliki’s VIP card was seized, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a sensitive diplomatic issue. The loss of VIP status makes it more difficult for him to pass through Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank, and travel abroad will require Israeli permission.
Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case, confirmed the incident but addressed questions to the Shin Bet security agency, which declined to comment. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office also declined to comment.
The move comes as Palestinians support an ICC investigation into possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories. ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced earlier this month that she was opening an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel in the West Bank and blocked the Gaza Strip.
The investigation is expected to examine the conduct of the IDF during a 2014 war against armed Hamas fighters and during months of mass protests along Gaza’s border with Israel in which dozens of non-Palestinian Palestinians armed forces were killed or wounded by Israeli fire.
The investigation is also expected to examine Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, areas captured in 1967.
According to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, al-Maliki met Bensouda last Thursday and urged her to speed up investigations “to end the era of impunity and start the path of accountability” for Israel.
The investigation was initiated in response to a request from the Palestinians, who joined the court in 2015 after being granted non-member observer status at the United Nations General Assembly.
Israel strongly condemned the investigation, accusing the ICC of bias and saying it lacks jurisdiction since the Palestinians do not have a state. Israel is not a member of the ICC, but its citizens could be arrested abroad if arrest warrants are issued.
The court said last week it had sent formal notices to both parties about the impending investigation, giving them a month to request the postponement by proving they were conducting their own investigations.