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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Warrant sought for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders, blow for Israeli government

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said he was applying for arrest warrants for Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. He also said he was requesting warrants for Netanyahu and Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant

Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Patrick Kingsley New York Published 21.05.24, 05:00 AM
Benjamin Netanyahuin

Benjamin Netanyahuin File image

International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday that he had requested arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to the October 7 attack and the war in the Gaza Strip.

In a statement, Khan said he was applying for arrest warrants for Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. He also said he was requesting warrants for Netanyahu and Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant. While Khan’s request must still be approved by judges from the court, the announcement is a blow to the government of Netanyahu and will likely fuel international criticism of Israel’s strategy in its seven-month campaign against Hamas and the war’s toll on Gaza’s civilian population.

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There was no immediate response from the Israeli government or from Hamas. Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognise its jurisdiction in Israel or Gaza. But if warrants are issued, those named could be arrested if they travel to one of the court’s 124 member nations.

Khan’s statement said he had “reasonable grounds to believe” that Sinwar, Deif and Haniyeh were responsible for “war crimes and crimes against humanity” — including “the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas”.

“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,” the statement said.

With regard to Netanyahu and Gallant, the prosecutor said he believed the Israeli leaders bore criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including using starvation as a weapon of war and “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population”.

The court’s announcement does not come entirely as a surprise. In March, Volker Türk, the UN human rights chief, said Israel’s restrictions on aid entering Gaza and the way it was conducting the war might amount to the use of starvation as a weapon. That is a war crime under the Rome Statute.

Even though the court is a judicial body independent from the UN, Türk’s statement drew attention given his seniority. Israeli officials first said in late April that they believed the court was preparing to issue arrest warrants for senior government officials on charges related to the war.

On April 26, Netanyahu said on social media that the country “will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defence”.

New York Times News Service

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