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20 May, 2024 11:41

ICC chief prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

Israel’s PM and defense minister as well as Hamas leaders, are suspected of committing war crimes, Karim Khan has said
ICC chief prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas leaders

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he's seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There are “reasonable grounds to believe” that the wanted persons are responsible for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Gaza and in Israel, Karim Khan outlined in a statement on Monday.

Along with Netanyahu, the prosecutor is looking to arrest Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The wanted Hamas officials include the Palestinian armed group’s leader Yahya Sinwar, the commander of its military wing –al-Qassam Brigades – Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, and the chief of Hamas’ Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh, the prosecutor’s statement reads.

According to Khan, Netanyahu and Gallant are suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza such as intentional attacks on a civilian population, willful killing and causing of suffering, using starvation as a method of warfare, “extermination and/or murder” as well as other “inhumane acts.”

The wanted Hamas leaders allegedly “bear criminal responsibility” for murder, rape and other acts of sexual violence, and for taking hostages, torture and other “inhumane acts,” the prosecutor said.

On October 7, Hamas fighters carried out an incursion into Israel, which resulted in  about 1,200 people being killed and 250 taken hostage. The Israeli government responded to the attack by launching a large-scale military operation in Gaza that is still ongoing. According to data from the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry, 35,456 have been killed and 79,476 others wounded as a result of Israel’s airstrikes and ground offensive.

Israel is not a member of the ICC and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the UN court, but the State of Palestine joined the organization in 2015. Once warrants against Netanyahu and Hamas leaders are issued, any of the court’s 124 member-states will be obliged to arrest them if they set foot on their territory.

Benny Gantz, the centrist member of Israel’s three-person war cabinet, labeled the decision by Khan to seek arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant as “a crime of historic proportions.” Israel is waging “one of the just wars fought in modern history” and drawing parallels between its top officials and Hamas leaders is “a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy,” he claimed in a statement.

The country’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich said that “we have not seen such a show of hypocrisy and hatred of Jews like that displayed by the court in the Hague since Nazi propaganda.” Another rightist cabinet member, national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, has urged the Israeli PM and defense minister to “ignore the anti-Semitic prosecutor and order a stepped-up assault against Hamas until they are completely destroyed.”

Back in April, when reports of a possible arrest warrant against Netanyahu emerged, the PM blamed the ICC for seeking to “paralyze Israel’s very ability to defend itself,” while fanning the “fires of anti-Semitism.”

Axios reported earlier this month that a group of Republican lawmakers in the US House of Representatives had been devising sanctions against the ICC in a bid to deter it from prosecuting the Israeli leaders. The US, Israel’s major ally, is not a state party to the Rome Statute, which founded the ICC in 2002.