International Criminal Court Seeks Arrest Warrant For Netanyahu And Hamas Leaders

Top officials in Israel and key militant leaders could face war crime charges.
The ICC wants to issue an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The ICC wants to issue an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
DEBBIE HILL via Getty Images

The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for both Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders such as Yahya Sinwar.

The ICC wants to charge them with war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the October 7 attack and the subsequent war in Gaza.

ICC judges still have to decide whether there are grounds for these arrest warrants.

But, this is a significant shift in the war because it puts Netanyahu, a key ally to the US, at a similar level as the Russian president Vladimir Putin – he also has an arrest warrant out over him of the war in Ukraine.

It means Putin cannot travel to countries which are part of the ICC without risking arrest.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN on Monday that the court also wants warrants for Israel’s defence minster Yoav Gallant.

Gallant and Netanyahu face charges of “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict”, Khan said.

When reports that an arrest warrant against Israeli senior officials appeared in the media last month, Netanyahu said it would “an outrage of historic proportions” and claimed Israel “has an independent legal system that rigorously investigates all violation of the law”.

Khan responded to those claims by telling CNN: “Nobody is above the law.”

Neither Israel nor the US are members of the ICC.

However, the international organisation claims to have jurisdiction over Palestinian territories (Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank) after the region’s leaders signed up to the court nine years ago.

After the ICC’s announcement, Israel announced a special committee would be established to challenge the court’s decision.

Foreign minister Israel Katz said the ICC’s move is a “full frontal attack” on the victims of the October 7 attacks and a “historical disgrace to be remembered forever”.

He claimed “no power in the world” will stop Israel from getting hostages home and taking down Hamas.

Sinwar, along with other militant leaders including leader of the Al Qassem Bridgades, Mahammed Dief, and Hamas’ political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, are facing charges such as “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention”.

The Palestinian militants killed an estimated 1,200 people on Israeli soil on October 7, and took around 240 others hostage – there are still more than 100 thought to be held in Hamas’ captivity.

The events of that day triggered an all-out war, and the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 35,000 people have been killed in the last seven months.

Khan told CNN that “people have suffered enormously” due to the October 7 attack, and that “the world was shocked” by the events of that day.

On the ICC website, Khan also said: “If we do not demonstrate our willingness to apply the law equally, if it is seen as being applied selectively, we will be creating the conditions for its collapse.”

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters that the arrest warrants “equate the victim with the executioner”, and that the move only encourages Israel to continue what he described as a “war of extermination”.

The spokesperson for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak told journalists: “The ICC does not have jurisdiction in this case and this action does nothing to help reach a pause in the fighting, get hostages out or get humanitarian aid in.”

Meanwhile, the International Court of Justice is currently investigating South Africa’s claim that Israel is committing genocide with its offensive in Gaza – a claim which Israel and the US have denied.


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