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ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israeli PM, defence chief and 3 Hamas leaders

  • Decision equates victim with executioner, Hamas official says
Published May 20, 2024
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

THE HAGUE/JERUSALEM: The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor said on Monday he had requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defence chief, and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement issued after over seven months of Israeli aggression in Gaza that he had reasonable grounds to believe that all “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

He said he had applied for an arrest warrant for Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as well as for Netanyahu. They have overseen Israel’s aggression in Gaza.

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He has also applied for arrest warrants for Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar; Mohammed Al-Masri, the commander-in-chief of Hamas, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ Political Bureau.

It will be up to a panel of pre-trial judges to determine whether the evidence supports the issuing of arrest warrants. The court, however, has no means to enforce arrest warrants and its investigation into Israeli aggression in Gaza has long been opposed by the United States and Israel.

Israel and Palestinian leaders have previously dismissed allegations of committing war crimes.

“Now, more than ever, we must collectively demonstrate that international humanitarian law, the foundational baseline for human conduct during conflict, applies to all individuals and applies equally across the situations addressed by my office and the court,” Khan said.

35,562 Palestinians killed in Gaza offensive since Oct. 7

“This is how we will prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value.”

War crime allegations

The allegations against Netanyahu and Gallant include bearing responsibility for starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, wilfully causing great suffering, and wilful killing or murder as a war crime.

The Hamas leaders face allegations of bearing responsibility for crimes including extermination and murder, the taking of hostages, torture, rape, and other acts of sexual violence.

Several Israeli ministers and Palestinian representatives denounced the prosecutor’s moves.

“Drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a blood-thirsty terror organisation (Hamas) is a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy,” Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the prosecutor’s decision to request warrants for the three Hamas leaders “equates the victim with the executioner”.

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The ICC is the world’s first permanent international war crimes court. Its 124 member states are obliged to immediately arrest the wanted person if they are on a member state’s territory but the court has no means to enforce arrest warrants.

Israel and its main ally the United States are not members of the ICC, along with China and Russia.

At least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s aggression in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health ministry, and aid agencies have also warned of widespread hunger and dire shortages of fuel and medical supplies.

Some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 taken hostage in the Hamas-led October 7 rampage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel calls ICC prosecutor’s bid for PM arrest warrant ‘historical disgrace’

Israel slammed as a “historical disgrace” the application by the prosecutor of the ICC for an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Khan “in the same breath mentions the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence of the State of Israel alongside the abominable Nazi monsters of Hamas – a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever”.

Katz denounced the move as a “scandalous decision” that amounted to “a frontal attack… on the victims of October 7” when Hamas launched their attack on Israel, sparking the Gaza war.

Two Israeli soldiers killed in south Gaza, military says

The minister added that Israel would establish a special committee to fight the ICC prosecutor’s efforts to secure a warrant, and also embark on a diplomatic push against it.

Katz said he planned to “speak with foreign ministers in leading countries of the world so that they oppose the prosecutor’s decision and announce that, even if orders are issued, they do not intend to enforce them on the leaders of the State of Israel”.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog criticised Khan’s bid as an example of how the “international judicial system is in danger of collapsing”.

“This one-sided move represents a unilateral political step that emboldens terrorists around the world,” he said in a statement.

“Any attempt to draw parallels between these atrocious terrorists and a democratically elected government of Israel… is outrageous and cannot be accepted by anyone.”

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Israel’s war cabinet minister Benny Gantz meanwhile said the ICC prosecutor’s bid was a “historical crime”.

“Placing the leaders of a country that went into a battle to protect its citizens in the same line with bloodthirsty terrorists is moral blindness,” Gantz said on X.

On Saturday, Gantz had criticised Netanyahu for his handling of the war in Gaza, threatening to resign from the war cabinet unless the premier approved a post-war plan for the Palestinian territory.


200 characters
Az_Iz May 20, 2024 07:44pm
After having killed so many innocent women and children, starved an entire population,destroyed the entire infrastructure making life unbearable for the Gazans,will there be justice?
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Az_Iz May 20, 2024 07:46pm
Look at the deliberate and savage killings of Palestinians and destruction of Gaza.What more evidence is needed?
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Love Your Country May 20, 2024 10:31pm
2 from Israel and 3 from Hamas - how is this logical?
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Chawla.i May 20, 2024 10:59pm
Icc is a symbolic institution rather saying no jurisdiction while tasked powerful countries or persons, i believe it shd b close down as it cant implement in a true spirit its own directives
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