Palestinian protesters
Masked Palestinian protesters look on during clashes following a protest against the near-by Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus Jan. 16, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

The U.S. said it “strongly” disagreed with the decision by International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to begin an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories. Washington would continue to oppose actions against Israel at the international tribunal, said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke in a statement released late Friday.

“As we have said repeatedly, we do not believe that Palestine is a state and therefore we do not believe that it is eligible to join the ICC,” said the statement. “It is a tragic irony that Israel, which has withstood thousands of terrorist rockets fired at its civilians and its neighborhoods, is now being scrutinized by the ICC. The place to resolve the differences between the parties is through direct negotiations, not unilateral actions by either side.”

Bensouda announced Friday that she had opened a preliminary inquiry into the situation in the Palestinian territories since June of last year, which would allow the court to investigate alleged crimes committed during the two-month war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza last summer, during which more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis were killed, according to Reuters.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had requested that the court investigate Israeli “crimes” following his successful application to join the tribunal. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently confirmed that the Palestinians would become official members of the court on April 1, which would extend its jurisdiction over the territories back to June of 2014, reported Al Jazeera.

Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman labeled the decision to begin an inquiry “scandalous” and said it was an attempt to “harm Israel's right to defend itself against terror,” according to Haaretz. He also said that Israel would take international action to have the ICC dismantled in response to the move, which he said was motivated by “political and anti-Israel considerations.” Israel, which is not a member of the court, has retaliated against the Palestinians over their ICC efforts by freezing more than $100 million a month in tax transfers it collects on behalf of them.