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The ICC seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, has applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as well as for three leaders of the Palestinian political and militant group Hamas: Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh. 

Khan accused Netanyahu and Gallant of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conduct of Israel’s more than seven-month-long military campaign in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas leaders of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the group’s 7 October attacks into Israel.

The acts the prosecutor’s office believes Netanyahu and Gallant bear criminal responsibility for include: the starvation of civilians; intentionally directing attacks against civilians; and extermination and/or murder, among others.

“Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival,” Khan said in a statement released on 20 May.

The statement cited the near-total Israeli siege of Gaza, attacks on civilians, arbitrary restrictions on essential supplies entering the enclave, the obstruction of humanitarian aid deliveries, and the killing of aid workers as some of the evidence supporting the request for arrest warrants.

Khan also said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the three Hamas leaders were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including: extermination; murder; the taking of hostages; and rape and other acts of sexual violence.

Sinwar is Hamas’ leader in Gaza; Deif is the head of the group’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades; and Haniyeh, based in Qatar, is head of Hamas’ political bureau.

The request for warrants now goes to a panel of three judges who will examine evidence and decide whether they should be issued – a process that usually takes around two months.

The step by the chief prosecutor is the second major international legal action connected to Israel’s war in Gaza. The first was the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing Genocide in the enclave. For more on that case and what’s a stake in both cases when it comes to the perceived legitimacy of the international justice system, read: Gaza genocide case: Has Israel complied with ICJ orders?

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