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 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 murder, 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

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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 too “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.

The pair have overseen Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza since the Palestinian militant group’s deadly 7 October raid on Israel.

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

Benny Gantz, a former military chief and member of Israel’s war cabinet, harshly criticised 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?

It will be up to a panel of pre-trial judges to determine whether the evidence supports the issuing of arrest warrants.

It is expected they will take around two months to consider the evidence and determine if the matter 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.

The court has no means to enforce arrest warrants and its investigation into the Gaza war has long been opposed by the US and Israel.

But Mr Khan’s announcement deepens Israel’s isolation as it presses ahead with the conflict, 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.

Huge moment

We had heard indications that these charges were coming, but to hear them laid out by the Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, is a huge moment.

Mr Khan, a British lawyer, is seeking arrest warrants against Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant for “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

His charges include ‘starvation of civilians as a method of warfare’, ‘intentionally directing acts against a civilian population’ and ‘other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity’.

It is a damning charge sheet and will not have been issued without careful and considerable thought.

Before making this application, Khan sought advice from an expert panel of international lawyers. Writing in the Financial Times, they said they spent months analysing and reviewing the evidence before unanimously agreeing there are “reasonable grounds to believe the suspects have committed war crimes”.

Mr Khan is also seeking arrest warrants against Hamas leaders Yahyah Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, also for war crimes.

That was to be expected but to hear Benjamin Netanyahu’s name on the same chargesheet as Sinwar’s is extraordinary and deeply humiliating for the Israeli leadership, regardless of the merit of the accusations.

A panel of judges will now consider the evidence and either grant arrest warrants or not. Conscious of past accusations of being slow, they might choose to make that decision reasonably quickly, especially with the war ongoing in Gaza.

Israel is not a signatory of the ICC and will have no intention of handing its serving Prime Minister over, if an arrest warrant is issued but it will make life extremely difficult for the government here.

Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant will not be able to travel to any country that is a member of the court, for fear of arrest. The United States isn’t a signatory, but 124 countries are, including the UK and most other European states.

If the arrest warrants are issued, it will make it very difficult for most of Israel’s allies to do business with a government whose leader is wanted for war crimes.

These consequences aren’t so great for Hamas leaders who are either trapped in Gaza or don’t travel outside of friendly countries anyway.

Mr Netanyahu is yet to respond, but this will have rattled him greatly and given him a label he will never be able to shake.

The question is whether this will have any impact on the course of the war, or whether the Israeli prime minister will double-down and defy his critics.

Read original article here.

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