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International Criminal Court prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel's Netanyahu, Hamas leaders

A general view of the International Criminal Court (ICC) building in The Hague, Netherlands on April 30, 2024. 

Selman Aksunger | Anadolu | Getty Images

The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants against three leaders of Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity linked to the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel and the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

In a Monday statement, the ICC said it is targeting to secure warrants against Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, the group’s Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh and Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, commander in chief of Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam brigade.

The three Hamas leaders are pursued in connection with alleged crimes committed during Hamas’ October 7 terror attack against Israel, including murder, the taking of hostages and sexual abuse.

The ICC also asked for warrants against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for alleged crimes committed since October during Israel’s retaliatory campaign in the Gaza Strip. The alleged crimes include the starvation of civilians, murder and persecution.

Israel says that its offensive in the Gaza enclave, which it deepened with an incursion in Rafah earlier this month, targets the elimination of Hamas, rather than civilians.

“Now, more than ever, we must collectively demonstrate that international humanitarian law, the foundational baseline for human conduct during conflict, applies to all individuals and applies equally across the situations addressed by my Office and the Court,” ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a Monday statement. “This is how we will prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value. “

Over 1,200 people have been killed in Israel since October, according to Israel’s prime minister’s office, while the Palestinian Health Ministry indicated over 35,000 people were killed in the Gaza Strip during that period.

A ‘historical crime’

Foreshadowing the ICC filing amid reports of a potential warrant pursuit, Netanyahu said in a speech earlier this month that “this step would put an indelible stain on the very idea of justice and international law” and represent a distortion of history and justice.

Israel is simultaneously defending itself against claims of genocide and attempts to restrict its Gaza campaign in the Hague-based International Court of Justice, which last week heard South Africa’s request for an emergency halt of Israeli operations in Rafah.

“ICC prosecutor’s baseless blood libel against Israel has crossed a red line in his lawfare efforts against the lone Jewish state and the only democracy in Middle East. The blood libel will not deter Israel from defending itself and accomplishing all its just war objectives,” the Israeli prime minister’s office said, according to NBC News.

Referencing the warrant application, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz on Monday said that “accepting the prosecutor’s position, would be a historical crime that will not go away” in a Google-translated social media post, adding that it places “the leaders of a country that went into battle to protect its citizens, in the same line with bloodthirsty terrorists.”

“The Hamas movement strongly denounces the attempts of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders, without a legal basis, in violation of the international conventions and resolutions that gave the Palestinian people and all the peoples of the world under occupation the right to resist the occupation in all forms,” Hamas said in a Google-translated statement.

The applications for arrest warrants were filed with an ICC’s pre-trial chamber for review to determine whether the charges can be confirmed. The filing marks a rare international judicial incursion against the leadership of a government allied with the U.S., which, like Israel, is not a state party of the ICC. The ICC holds that it has jurisdiction over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Last year, the ICC proceeded with issuing an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova on war crime charges of unlawful deportation of children and their transfer from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia, during Moscow’s war against Kyiv.


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