ICC Prosecutor Seeks Arrest Warrants For Netanyahu and Hamas Leaders

A prosecutor with the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague has issued calls for the arrest of Hamas leaders, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that his office had collected and examined evidence sufficient to prosecute Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, as well as the leader of the Hamas terrorist group’s military wing, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, and Hamas’ political head Ismail Haniyeh, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on Oct. 7, 2023.

Mr. Khan said the Hamas leaders could be held responsible for the killing and hostage-taking by Hamas members engaged during the Oct. 7 attack, along with allegations those Hamas members used rape and other forms of sexual violence during the attack and have engaged in torture then and since.

“It is the view of my Office that these individuals planned and instigated the commission of crimes on 7 October 2023, and have through their own actions, including personal visits to hostages shortly after their kidnapping, acknowledged their responsibility for those crimes,” Mr. Khan said.

The ICC prosecutor submitted his application for the arrest of these Hamas leaders in tandem with an application for the arrest of Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

While Mr. Khan accused the Hamas leaders of complicity in mass killings, kidnappings, rapes, and tortures, he charges the Israeli leaders with their own set of war crimes with how they’ve prosecuted their military response across the Gaza Strip in the seven months since the attack. Mr. Khan alleged that Israeli leaders have facilitated Israeli forces using starvation as a method of warfare and allowed willful killings and attacks on civilian populations.

“My Office submits that the war crimes alleged in these applications were committed in the context of an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, and a non-international armed conflict between Israel and Hamas (together with other Palestinian Armed Groups) running in parallel,” Mr. Khan stated. “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. These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.”

Mr. Khan’s application for ICC arrest warrants initiates a decision-making process with a three-judge panel on the Netherlands-based court for international law. The pre-trial panel takes, on average, two months to consider the evidence and determine whether the proceedings can move forward.

Israeli FM Slams Prosecutor’s Request

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned Mr. Khan’s decision to call for the arrests of Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant on Monday.

“The outrageous decision by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague is an unrestrained frontal assault on the victims of October 7th and our 128 hostages in Gaza,” Mr. Katz said in a social media post following the announcement with the ICC.

“While Hamas murderers and rapists commit crimes against humanity against our brothers and sisters, the Prosecutor mentions in the same breath the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel alongside the vile Nazi-like monsters of Hamas – a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever,” Mr. Katz’s statement continued.

Israel is not a member of the ICC, and even if the arrest warrants are issued, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant do not face an immediate risk of prosecution. But Mr. Khan’s announcement could further isolate Israel from the international community as it presses ahead with its war, and the threat of arrest could dissuade the Israeli leaders from traveling abroad.

Mr. Katz said he has directed the formation of a special office within the Israeli Foreign Ministry to contest Mr. Khan’s case. The Israeli foreign minister said he would also call on his counterparts around the world to declare that they won’t enforce any potential ICC arrest warrants targeting Israeli leaders.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an ardent supporter of the ongoing Israeli war effort, also spoke out on Monday to condemn Mr. Khan’s request to open an ICC case against the Israeli leaders.

“This outrageous decision is truly a slap in the face to the independent judiciary in Israel, which is renowned for their independence,” Mr. Graham stated in a social media post.

The South Carolina senator noted ICC investigators had previously considered taking action against the U.S. government for potential war crimes claims in the war in Afghanistan, a move which drew pushback from President Donald Trump’s administration in 2018.

“I will feverishly work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both chambers to levy damning sanctions against the ICC,” Mr. Graham said.

Hamas Rebuffs Khan’s Arrest Efforts

In a press statement published in the Hamas-affiliated Al Aqsa telegram channel, Hamas leadership issued their own condemnation of Mr. Khan’s arrest applications.

Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States, said the ICC should’ve acted against the Israeli leaders sooner for their role in the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians, as well as medical workers and journalists. Hamas leadership further criticized Mr. Khan for only requesting arrest warrants for two Israeli officials and not more.

According to a translation of the press statement, Hamas leaders further castigated Mr. Khan for his decision to “equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders, without a legal basis.”

“Hamas demands the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to issue arrest and detention orders against all war criminals, including occupation leaders, officers, and soldiers who participated in crimes against the Palestinian people,” the translated Hamas statement continued. “It also demands the cancellation of all arrest warrants issued against leaders of the Palestinian resistance, for violating United Nations conventions and resolutions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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