Israel: ICC seeking arrest warrant against PM Netanyahu over alleged Gaza war crimes

The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seeking arrest warrants against the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and several Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan KC issued a statement this morning proposing that arrest warrants are issued for Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, Hamas’ military chief, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau.

The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare … intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population … wilfully causing great suffering … persecution as a crime against humanity … [and] extermination and/or murder.”

A panel of ICC judges will now consider Mr Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

If the panel deems it fit to issue the arrests, Mr Netanyahu would be in the same company as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the ICC issued an arrest warrant for over his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Israel, like all States, has a right to take action to defend its population,” Mr Khan’s statement read. “That right, however, does not absolve Israel or any State of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law.

“Notwithstanding any military goals they may have, the means Israel chose to achieve them in Gaza – namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal.”

The charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri all relate to Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israeli soil and the alleged mistreatment of hostages taken into Gaza after the assault.

Around 1,200 people are believed to have been killed during the attack, while 245 people were taken hostage, 120 of which remain in Gaza.

Mr Khan said the crimes of the three leaders include “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention”.

He alleges that the three Hamas leaders are “criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas”.

He said they all effectively acknowledged their responsibility when they visited hostages shortly after their kidnapping.

“My Office also submits there are reasonable grounds to believe that hostages taken from Israel have been kept in inhumane conditions, and that some have been subject to sexual violence, including rape, while being held in captivity,” the statement read.

“We have reached that conclusion based on medical records, contemporaneous video and documentary evidence, and interviews with victims and survivors. My Office also continues to investigate reports of sexual violence committed on 7 October.”

The possibility of arrest warrants for the three Hamas leaders may appear uncontroversial – but the ICC chief prosecutor’s inclusion of Mr Netanyahu is sure to enrage the Israeli administration.

When reports surfaced last month that Mr Khan was considering this course of action, Mr Netanyahu suggested such a move “would be an outrage of historic proportions”.

He reiterated that Israel “has an independent legal system that rigorously investigates all violations of the law”.

Asked by CNN about the comments made by Mr Netanyahu, Mr Khan said: “Nobody is above the law.”

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