ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israeli PM and Hamas leaders

The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is seeking an arrest warrant for Israel’s prime minister and defence minister, for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip, as well as three leaders of the Palestinian extremist movement Hamas. Karim Khan announced the application in a statement on Monday.

“Based on the evidence collected and examined by my office, I have reasonable grounds to believe that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, and Yoav Gallant, the Defence Minister of Israel, bear criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine (in the Gaza Strip) from at least 8 October 2023,” Khan said.

According to Khan, Netanyahu and Gallant are responsible for starving civilians, deliberately directing attacks on the civilian population and deliberate killing. He says there was a plan “to use starvation as a method of war and other acts of violence" against Gaza’s civilian population “to eliminate Hamas, recover the [Israeli] hostages and “collectively punish” Gaza’s civilian population.

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

Warrants for Hamas members

He is also seeking an arrest warrant for Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Marsi, commander-in-chief of the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military branch, and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau. 

They are alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, rape, kidnapping and torture, both in Israel and on Palestinian territory. 

"Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators"

"During my own visit to Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as to the site of Supernova Music Festival in Re’im, I saw the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today," Khan said. "These acts demand accountability."

“Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators. The fight against impunity wherever crimes occur is a priority for Belgium,” Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib said in a statement. 

“Belgium will continue to support the essential work of international justice to ensure that those responsible for all crimes are held accountable.”

It is now up to ICC judges to judge whether there is sufficient evidence to issue an arrest warrant. That could take weeks or months.

If a warrant is issued, all countries party to the ICC must arrest wanted persons and hand them over to the court. Israel itself, the US and Russia are among the countries that have never ratified the ICC convention

Karim Khan, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, speaks at UN Headquarters in New York, July 2023 © PHOTO LEV RADIN/PACIFIC PRESS VIA ZUMA PRESS WIRE

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