ICC seeks arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes in Palestine; charges Hamas chief for Oct. 7 attack

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan, on May 20 announced that he will be submitting applications to seek arrest warrants against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country Defence Minister Yoav Gallant in connection with the prevailing situation in Palestine. Mr. Khan in his statement said that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant “bear criminal responsibility” for the war crimes and crimes against humanity “committed on the territory of the State of Palestine (in the Gaza strip) from at least 8 October 2023”.

The prosecutor has also charged Yahya Sinwar (Head of the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”) in the Gaza Strip), Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, more commonly known as DEIF (Commander-in-Chief of the military wing of Hamas, known as the Al-Qassam Brigades), and Ismail Haniyeh. The ICC has believes them to be “criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas (in particular its military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades) and other armed groups on 7 October 2023 and the taking of at least 245 hostages.”

In his statement, Mr. Khan said that “Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival.”

Also read: A brief history of starvation as a ‘war crime’ | Explained

The International Court of Justice, a separate body is also investigating whether Israel has committed acts of genocide in the ongoing war in Gaza, with any ruling expected to take years. Israel has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused both international courts of bias.

Israel has instead accused Hamas of genocide over its October 7 attack that triggered the war. Militants stormed through army bases and farming communities across southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostages.

In response, Israel launched a massive air, sea and ground offensive that has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its tally.

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Israel blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because the militants fight in dense, residential areas. The military says it has killed over 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The war has driven around 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in several towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine.

Listing out the articles of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, under which Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant will be charged, Mr. Khan added that their criminal acts “occurred through the imposition of a total siege over Gaza that involved completely closing the three border crossing points, Rafah, Kerem Shalom and Erez, from 8 October 2023 for extended periods and then by arbitrarily restricting the transfer of essential supplies — including food and medicine — through the border crossings after they were reopened.

“The siege also included cutting off cross-border water pipelines from Israel to Gaza – Gazans’ principal source of clean water – for a prolonged period beginning 9 October 2023, and cutting off and hindering electricity supplies from at least 8 October 2023 until today. This took place alongside other attacks on civilians, including those queuing for food; obstruction of aid delivery by humanitarian agencies; and attacks on and killing of aid workers, which forced many agencies to cease or limit their operations in Gaza,” he added.

(With agency inputs)

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