ICC applies for arrest warrants against Netanyahu, Sinwar

May 21, 2024
Jerusalem, Israel. 25th Jan, 2023. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich hold a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Israel on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. Image: Pool Photo by Ronen Zvulun/ Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

The ICC chief prosecutor accused Israeli and Hamas leaders of war crimes while repeating false claims against Hamas and downplaying Israeli violence against Palestinians, writes The Cradle news desk.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, the movement’s military wing chief, Mohammad Deif, and Political Buro head, Ismail Haniyeh, for war crimes.

Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said there were reasonable grounds to believe that all bore criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity from at least 7 October 2023.

The ICC, based in The Hague, opened an investigation into Israel’s actions in the occupied territories in 2021. The investigation has been expanded to cover both Israeli and Hamas actions since the start of the Gaza war on 7 October.

The ICC accused Hamas of killing several hundred Israelis and of committing various war crimes during its assault on Israeli military bases and settlements during Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. The ICC accusations include extermination, murder, taking hostages, rape and other sexual crimes, and torture.

The ICC statement also does not mention that during the 7 October Hamas attack, Israeli forces killed many of their own civilians by responding with heavy weapons. Israeli media has reported that the army used helicopters, drones, and tanks to open fire on Hamas fighters and their Israeli captives in settlements (kibbutzim), military bases, and the Nova music festival site.

These heavy weapons burned many Israelis alive or buried them under the rubble of the houses they destroyed. The killings and resulting mutilation of the bodies were then blamed on Hamas by Israeli authorities, who suggested fighters from Hamas’ armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, had tortured them.

UN investigators have sought evidence that Hamas has committed mass rapes on 7 October in response to Israeli claims, but Israel has failed to provide it. Many reports of Hamas committing mass rape, including in a widely publicized article in the New York Times in December, have been shown to be false.

The ICC also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of war crimes, including extermination, murder, directing attacks at civilians, and using starvation as a weapon of war.

The ICC statement focused on Israel’s efforts to starve Palestinians in Gaza, citing its efforts to cut off food, water, medicine, and electricity to the enclave starting on 9 October. The ICC statement mentions Israeli attacks on civilians, including those queuing for food.

The statement claims that Israel carried out these war crimes as part of a right to self-defense and to defeat Hamas, win the release of Israeli captives held by the group, and punish civilians it viewed as a “threat.”

At the same time, the ICC statement did not mention the reason for the Hamas attack, namely to break the 17-year siege on Gaza, end decades of illegal occupation and settlement in the West Bank, and free thousands of Palestinians held hostage in Israeli prisons.

The ICC statement makes no mention of Israel’s relentless bombing of Gaza, of Israeli sniper drones killing civilians, and of the torture and sexual abuse of Palestinian detainees swept up in Gaza and taken to detention facilities in Israel. The ICC statement also makes no mention of Israeli efforts to ethnically cleanse Gaza nor of the estimated number of Palestinians killed by Israeli bombings and other actions, which now exceeds 34,000, including some 8,000 children, according to conservative UN estimates.

In response, an Israeli official told the Times of Israel that Karim Khan’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 the Middle East.”

“The blood libel will not deter Israel from defending itself and accomplishing all its just war objectives,” says the official. Netanyahu will issue a video statement later in the day.

 

First published in The Cradle, May 20, 2024.

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