ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Hamas

The International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has requested arrest warrants for five individuals over alleged war crimes in the ongoing Israel – Hamas conflict.

Khan believes he has reasonable grounds that all five “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Of the five, two are from Israel – President Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant who are overseeing Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

The balance three are Hamas leaders. they are Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar, Deif commander-in-chief Mohammed Al-Masri and Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh. They are wanted for the deadly attack on 7 Oct.

Deif is Hamas military commander-in-chief.

Both parties have dismissed the allegations and criticised Khan’s decision.

“I reject with disgust the comparison of the prosecutor in the Hague between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” Netanyahu said, calling the move a “complete distortion of reality.”

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said the prosecutor’s decision to request warrants for the three Hamas leaders “equates the victim with the executioner”. Hamas demanded the arrest warrant request for its leaders be canceled.

The ICC is the world’s first permanent international war crimes court with 124 member states that are obliged to immediately arrest the wanted person if they are on a member state’s territory.

Israel not an ICC member

A court of last resort, the ICC steps in only when a state is unwilling or genuinely unable to do so itself. Israel has said alleged war crimes in Gaza are being investigated domestically.

Israel and its main ally the United States are not members of the ICC, along with China and Russia.

Member states have in the past failed to hand over suspects who entered their territory, including Sudanese former President Omar Bashir, wanted since 2005 for war crimes and genocide.

But if warrants are issued against Israeli leaders, court members including nearly all European Union countries could be put in a diplomatically difficult position.

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