ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas Leaders

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said Monday he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on war crimes charges.

First Published20 May 2024
ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas Leaders
ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu and Hamas Leaders

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said Monday he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on war crimes charges.

Karim Khan said in a statement that the charges relate to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by the Hamas militant group, and also to the Israeli military response in Gaza. A panel of ICC judges will consider whether to accept the application.

The decision to seek charges against the Israeli leader comes despite a US warning that it could jeopardize the chance for a cease-fire deal. The Israeli government also slammed the move, calling it a “deep distortion of justice.”

“We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to state policy,” Khan wrote. “These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.”

Khan is also seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and two other Hamas leaders, military chief Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri and political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.

Read more: Middle East Dangers Escalate With Iran’s Attack on Israel

The Israeli government had been worried about possible arrest warrants for its leadership.

“Drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a blood-thirsty terror organization is a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy,” Benny Gantz, an Israeli opposition leader in the country’s three-man war cabinet, said in a post on social media outlet X on Monday. 

“The prosecutor’s position to apply for arrest warrants is in itself a crime of historic proportion to be remembered for generations,” he said. Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz told state-owned broadcaster Kan that he’s asking other foreign ministers so make clear they won’t enforce any warrants if they’re issued.

Biden’s Condemnation

US President Joe Biden called Khan’s decision “outrageous,” saying in a statement Monday that “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

In a separate statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US “fundamentally” rejected Khan’s move, saying that the decision “does nothing to help, and could jeopardize, ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement.”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said before the US statements that he expected “that the Biden administration will stand behind us, and we expect Congress to come together and condemn these arrest warrants.”

Earlier this month, the ICC ordered an end to attempts to threaten its officials, days after the US and allies raised concerns that the court may issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials.

Europe was split over the step, with some politicians welcoming the announcement. The request “for arrest warrants against both Hamas and Israeli officials is an important step in the investigation of the situation in Palestine,” Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said in a post on X, adding that crimes in Gaza must be prosecuted “at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators.”

But the Czech Republic, which has long been a staunch supporter of Israel, condemned the inclusion of Israeli officials in the application.

“The proposal of ICC’s chief prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant on a representative of a democratically elected government together with leaders of an Islamic terrorist organization is frightening and absolutely unacceptable,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on X.

The ICC investigates and tries individuals charged with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Israel hasn’t ratified the ICC’s statute and doesn’t recognize its jurisdiction but the “State of Palestine” has been a member of the court since 2015. The US has also never been a party to the ICC.

Last year, the court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine, a move that was dismissed by the Kremlin.

With assistance from Ethan Bronner, Galit Altstein, Peter Laca and Augusta Saraiva.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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