ICC pursues arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders over war crimes

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Benjamin Netanyahu

20th May 2024 – (The Hague) Highlighting the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) commitment to global justice, Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan has announced the pursuit of arrest warrants against key figures in both the Israeli government and Hamas.

 This includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. The charges relate to alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the events of October 7 and the subsequent conflict in Gaza.

This unprecedented step places Netanyahu alongside other global leaders previously targeted by the ICC, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. It marks the first time the ICC has sought to prosecute the leader of a nation closely allied with the United States.

The warrants sought by Khan’s team also target other high-profile figures including Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh, and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, leader of the Al Qassem Brigades, more commonly known as Mohammed Deif.

These developments came to light during an exclusive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, where Khan detailed the nature of the alleged crimes. These range from extermination and murder to taking hostages and sexual assault during the conflict.

The application for these warrants is not without controversy. Critics argue that equating the actions of a democratically elected government with those of a recognized terrorist organization undermines the legitimacy of the ICC. This sentiment was echoed by Israeli official Benny Gantz, who decried the moral and judicial implications of the decision.

The ICC’s move could have significant diplomatic ramifications, particularly for Netanyahu and Gallant, who would face significant restrictions on international travel if the warrants are issued. This is compounded by the fact that Israel, like the United States and Russia, is not a member of the ICC, though the Court claims jurisdiction over the territories due to Palestinian accedence to the Rome Statute in 2015.

The announcement has sparked a fierce response from various quarters within Israel. Netanyahu denounced the ICC’s decision as a “political outrage,” vowing to continue military operations against Hamas. Opposition leader Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog also expressed vehement opposition, highlighting a perceived moral failure in the ICC’s decision.

Meanwhile, the ICC insists on its impartial stance, asserting that no individual is above the law. Khan’s firm position suggests a readiness to bring even the most politically sensitive figures to account, promoting a narrative of equal accountability under international law.