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Benjamin Netanyahu: International Criminal Court prosecutor seeks arrest warrants against Israeli prime minister and Hamas leaders | World News

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A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has applied for arrest warrants to be issued for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar over alleged war crimes.

Prosecutor Karim AA Khan KC is also seeking arrest warrants for Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant – and other top Hamas leaders Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al Masri, more commonly known as Deif (commander-in-Chief of the military wing of Hamas, known as the al Qassam Brigades), and Ismail Haniyeh (head of Hamas’s political bureau).

It comes against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

In a statement on Monday, Mr Khan outlined the reasons that his office was applying for the arrest warrants.

“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,” he said.

“This is how we will prove, tangibly, that the lives of all human beings have equal value.”

What did he say about the Hamas leaders?

On the Hamas leaders, he said he has reasonable grounds to believe they “bear criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

He outlined a list of alleged crimes, including taking hostages and rape and other acts of sexual violence.

“We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Israel by Hamas and other armed groups pursuant to organisational policies. Some of these crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day,” he said.

Pic: Reuters
Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house, in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, May 19, 2024. REUTERS/Ramadan Abed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Image:
Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Gaza. Pic: Reuters

What did he say about Benjamin Netanyahu?

On Mr Netanyahu and his defence minister Mr Gallant, Mr Khan said he has reasonable grounds to believe they “bear criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

He outlined a list of alleged crimes, including “starvation of civilians” and “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population”.

“We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy. These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day,” he said.

A senior Hamas official responding to the development said the court’s decision “equates the victim with the executioner”.

Sami Abu Zuhri told the Reuters news agency that it gives encouragement to Israel to continue its “war of extermination” in Gaza.

Benny Gantz, a former military chief and member of Israel’s war cabinet, harshly criticized Mr Khan’s announcement, saying Israel fights with “one of the strictest” moral codes and has a robust judiciary capable of investigating itself.

What happens now?

The prosecutor must request the warrants from a pre-trial panel of three judges, who take on average two months to consider the evidence and determine if the proceedings can move forward.

Israel is not a member of the court, and even if the arrest warrants are issued, Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution.

But Mr Khan’s announcement deepens Israel’s isolation as it presses ahead with its war, and the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

Israel is also facing a South African case in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide. Israel denies those charges.

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