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ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Gallant and Hamas leaders Sinwar, Deif, Haniyeh for war crimes and crimes against humanity

Israel and US reject ICC’s jurisdiction to issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. (Photo: Peter Dejong/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced Monday that he is seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, (known as Mohammed Deif), and Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, as well as Israeli leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant. 

The unprecedented step of seeking arrest warrants for Israeli leaders had already been the subject of much speculation in Israel. In April, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "The possibility that they will issue arrest warrants for war crimes against IDF commanders and state leaders, this possibility is a scandal on a historic scale.” 

Khan said the three Hamas members would be sought on charges of extermination, murder, hostage taking, sexual violence, torture, cruel treatment of captives, and other inhumane acts against the captives. 

The chief prosecutor repeated his call for “the immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and for their safe return to their families.” 

According to Khan's statement, he requests arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant on charges of starvation of civilians, extermination, willful killing, intentionally directing attacks against civilians, persecution, and other inhumane acts. 

He accused the Israeli leaders of “a common plan to use starvation as a method of war and other acts of violence against the Gazan civilian population as a means to (i) eliminate Hamas; (ii) secure the return of the hostages which Hamas has abducted, and (iii) collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza, whom they perceived as a threat to Israel.” 

In the statement, Khan said, "Israel, like all States, has a right to take action to defend its population," but claimed that "the means Israel chose to achieve [that right] in Gaza – namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal.” 

He reiterated the United Nations' claim that Israel was intentionally obstructing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Israel disputes the claim of a famine in Gaza and accuses the UN of failing to properly protect and distribute the aid entering the Gaza Strip.

Khan is a British lawyer of Pakistani origin who was elected to the position of chief prosecutor for the ICC in 2021. He visited Israel in December 2023, at the request of the families and friends of Israelis who were murdered or abducted by Hamas on Oct. 7. He was the first ICC prosecutor to visit Israel

A panel of three ICC judges will consider the chief prosecutor's application for the arrest warrants in a pre-trial to determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed. The panel's decision could take weeks or months, however, requests for arrest warrants by the chief prosecutor have largely been approved by the court.

The International Criminal Court has a history of hostility towards Israel. This bias was evidently demonstrated in the request submitted by the chief prosecutor, which noted "crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Israel and the State of Palestine (in the Gaza strip)," implying that Israel is not a state, while Palestine is.

Israel, like the United States, is not a signatory of the ICC and has rejected the ICC’s authority to issue arrest warrants.

Washington also rejected the ICC’s authority. Last month, U.S. National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby said, “We don't believe the ICC has any jurisdiction here. We don't support this investigation.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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