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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Alamy Stock Photo
War Crimes

ICC seeks arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders for war crimes

The ICC is also seeking warrants for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with two other top Hamas leaders.


THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL Court is seeking arrests warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on war crimes charges.

The court is also seeking arrests warrants on charges on crimes against humanity over the 7 October attacks on Israel and the subsequent conflict in Gaza, the ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has said. 

The ICC is seeking warrants for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with two other top Hamas leaders — Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades and better known as Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader – Khan said. 

Israel has said the ICC application is a “historical disgrace”.

“The Attorney General in the same breath mentions the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence of the State of Israel alongside the abominable Nazi monsters of Hamas – a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever,” said Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Hamas has said it “strongly condemns” the ICC’s move. 

“The Hamas movement strongly condemns the attempts of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders,” the militant group said in a statement.

Khan told CNN that the charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict”.

In a statement, Khan said his office submits that the “war crimes alleged in these applications were committed in the context of an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine, and a non-international armed conflict between Israel and Hamas … running in parallel”. 

“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. 

Khan said that Israel has “intentionally and systemically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival”. 

This occurred, he said, through the imposition of a total siege over Gaza that involved closing three border crossings and restricting essential supplies after the borders were reopened. He noted that the siege also included cutting off cross-border water pipelines from Israel to Gaza for “prolonged periods”. and cutting off and hindering electricity supplies. 

He said these acts were committed as part of a “common plan to use starvation as a method of war” and other acts of violence against the Gazan civilian population as a means to” eliminate Hamas, secure the return of the hostages which Hamas has abducted, and collectively punish the civilian population of Gaza, whom they perceived as a threat to Israel”.


The chief prosecutor told CNN that the charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri include “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention”.

In his statement, Khan said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the three men “are criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October 2023 and the taking of at least 245 hostages”. 

He said it is the view of his office that the three men “planned and instigated the commission of crimes on 7 October 2023, and have through their own actions, including personal visits to hostages shortly after their kidnapping, acknowledged their responsibility for those crimes”.

gaza-city-gaza-strip-palestinian-territory-18th-oct-2017-hamass-leader-in-the-gaza-strip-yahya-sinwar-meets-with-leaders-of-palestinian-factions-in-gaza-city-on-october-18-2017-credit-atia-da Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The ICC opened a probe in 2021 into Israel, as well as Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups, over possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The investigation was extended following the 7 October attacks. 

Earlier this month, the US said it opposed the ICC’s probe into Israel’s conduct in Gaza.

The ICC is the world’s only independent court set up to probe the gravest offences by individual suspects, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It has previously issued warrants for national leaders – most recently Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

Khan said that on 5 February 2021, he decided that the ICC can exercise its criminal jurisdiction in the “situation in the State of Palestine and that the territorial scope of this jurisdiction extends to Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”. 

He said this mandate continues and includes the escalation of hostilities and violence since 7 October. 

If granted, the warrant means that technically any of the 124 ICC member states would be obliged to arrest Netanyahu if he travelled there.

But while the warrant could complicate some travel for Netanyahu, the court has no mechanism to enforce its warrants, relying on its members to play ball.

The current conflict in Gaza started after Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s relentless retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,456 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the besieged enclave.

Includes reporting by AFP

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