Arrest warrants sought for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas leader for war crimes: International Criminal Court

By Emily Crane – NY Post

The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on war crimes charges over the conflict in Gaza — a move ripped by allies including President Biden and denounced by Israel as a “historic disgrace.”

The charges are tied to the deadly Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel and the subsequent war on Hamas, the court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement Monday.

Warrants are also being sought for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Hamas terror leader Yahya Sinwar and two other top Hamas officials — Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

The charges against the Hamas terror chiefs include extermination, murder, torture, rape and taking hostages — all war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a ceremony on May 13, 2024.Gil Cohen-Magen/UPI/Shutterstock

Israel is accused of “wilful killing,” “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare” and “wilfully causing great suffering.”

“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,” the prosecutor said.

Khan said he personally saw the “devastating scenes… and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes” that took place on Oct. 7

Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, greets his supporters upon his arrival at a meeting in a hall in Gaza City.AP

“Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability,” he said.

Netanyahu rebuked the ICC’s warrant bid as “absurd and false” in a video statement, taking issue in particular with Khan’s apparent comparison of Israeli forces to Hamas, which he rejected “with disgust.”

The Israeli leader called equating Hamas with Israel “an utter distortion of reality,” and said it was an example of “the new antisemitism” that started on US college campuses and has spread to The Hague, where the ICC is based.

Israel’s foreign minister Israel Katz quickly condemned the prosecutor’s push to seek arrest warrants against Israel’s leaders as “a historic disgrace that will be remembered forever.”

He vowed to form a special committee to fight back against any such action and said he’d work with world leaders to ensure that warrants would not be enforced on Israel’s leaders.

A man carries the dead body of a Palestinian child recovered from a house hit by an Israeli strike, in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, May 19, 2024.REUTERS

In the US, President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken rebuked the ICC announcement.

“The ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous,” said Biden, whom anti-Israel protesters have dubbed “Genocide Joe” for his forceful early support of Netanyahu’s counter-attack on Hamas.

“And let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas,” added Biden, who traveled to Israel just 11 days after Hamas terrorists started the war on Oct. 7 by murdering about 1,200 people — including 33 Americans — across southern Israel.

Blinken sought to minimize the reach and influence of the ICC, pigeonholing the intergovernmental organization as “a court of limited jurisdiction” in a separate statement.

“Those limits are rooted in principles of complementarity, which do not appear to have been applied here amid the Prosecutor’s rush to seek these arrest warrants rather than allowing the Israeli legal system a full and timely opportunity to proceed,” Blinken added.

The ICC, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, can charge individuals with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Israel, like the US, isn’t a member of the ICC and disputes its jurisdiction.

A number of US lawmakers were also quick to slam the prosecutor’s decision, with Sen. Lindsay Graham calling the “outrageous decision” a “slap in the face to the independent judiciary in Israel, which is renowned for their independence.”

Upstate New York Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-NY) called it a “mistake” that will “forever damage the credibility of the ICC.”

“There can be no equivocation. Prime Minister Netanyahu is the leader of a democracy and is defending Israel’s right to exist following the horrific October 7th attacks,” Molinaro said.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians.”

And ex-National Security Advisor John Bolton said the decision proved the ICC’s “fundamental illegitimacy.”

“To aid our ally Israel, the U.S. should take steps both in Congress and in the White House to condemn the ICC and impose sanctions, as I have previously suggested,” he said.

A panel of ICC judges will weigh the prosecutors’ applications for the warrants.

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

“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.”

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