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ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Netanyahu

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim AA Khan announced May 20 that he has applied for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as senior Hamas leaders, for crimes committed during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The officials face various charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute.

In unveiling the charges, Khan said "Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival" by imposing a "total siege" on Strip immediately after the Oct. 8 attacks and restricting the flow of aid through border crossings. The prosecutor alleged that Netanyahu and Gallant intend to use "starvation as a method of war" to "collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza, whom they perceived as a threat to Israel."

Gallant announced on Oct. 9 that he ad ordered a "complete siege" on Gaza, and that Israeli forces were fighting "human animals." The siege has included a total blockade of food, water, and electricity.

The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include:

  • Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, as a war crime;
  • Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health, or cruel treatment, as a war crime;
  • Wilful killing or murder, as a war crime;
  • Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, as a war crime;
  • Extermination and/or murder, including in the context of deaths caused by starvation, as a crime against humanity;
  • Persecution as a crime against humanity; and
  • Other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity.

About 35,000 Gazans have been killed since the start of Israel's military operations, accordingto Gaza’s health ministry.

Khan also seeks the arrest of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, commander-in-chief Mohammed Deif, and political head Ismail Haniyeh over multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during and following the Oct. 7 attacks, which the prosecutor says the three planned, resulting in the killings of hundreds of civilians. Khan also stated there are reasonable grounds to believe that Hamas' hostages taken during the attacks have been subjected to "inhumane conditions," including instances of sexual violence and rape.

The prosecutor accused the three of:

  • Extermination as a crime against humanity;
  • Murder as a crime against humanity;
  • Taking hostages as a war crime;
  • Rape and sexual violence as a crime against humanity and war crime in the context of captivity;
  • Torture as a crime against humanity in the context of captivity;
  • Cruel treatment as a war crime in the context of captivity; and
  • Outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime in the context of captivity.

A total of 1,139 people were killed during the October 7 attacks, and at least 245 people were taken hostage. Last week, Israel recovered the bodies of four hostages.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz strenuously objected to Khan's application, calling the proposed warrant an "outrageous decision" and an "unrestrained frontal assault on the victims of October 7th and our 128 hostages in Gaza." Katz also announced:

I have instructed the immediate establishment of a special command center at the Foreign Ministry, with all professional entities, aimed at fighting against the decision intended primarily to shackle Israel's hands and prevent it from exercising its right to self-defense.

Katz defiantly concluded: "No power in the world will prevent us from bringing back all our hostages and toppling the Hamas terror regime."

The head of the UN food program warned of famine in northern Gaza earlier this month, as UN officials including Secretary-General António Guterres and Human Rights Special Rapporteur Volker Türk urged Israel to call off an imminent full-scale invasion of Rafah, where 1.3 million Palestinians are taking shelter.

The ICC will now take up Khan’s requests for warrants and consider whether to grant them.

From Jurist, May 20. Used with permission.

See our last reports on genocide accusations against Israel.