Israeli officials blast ICC pursuit of arrest warrants for Netanyahu

Israeli officials have rebuked the International Criminal Court’s announcement that it is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders for the ongoing conflict.

The ICC announced on Monday that it intends to pursue arrest warrants against Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, Mohammad Deif, the head of the military, and Ismail Haniyeh, the head of their political bureau, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the decision “outrageous” in a statement, adding, “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.”

The minister expressed dismay at the court’s decision to announce the intention to seek warrants against Hamas and Israeli leaders “in the same breath.”

“While Hamas murderers and rapists commit crimes against humanity against our brothers and sisters, the Prosecutor mentions in the same breath the Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Israel alongside the vile Nazi-like monsters of Hamas — a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever,” he said.

Several other Israeli leaders expressed similar anger at what they described as an implied comparison between the actions of Israeli forces and Hamas.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war Cabinet, said, “Placing the leaders of a country that went into battle to protect its citizens, in the same line with bloodthirsty terrorists, is moral blindness and a violation of its duty and ability to protect its citizens.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog reiterated the sentiment, saying, “Taken in bad faith, this one-sided move represents a unilateral political step that emboldens terrorists around the world, and violates all the basic rules of the court according to the principle of complementarity and other legal norms.”

“Any attempt to draw parallels between these atrocious terrorists and a democratically elected government of Israel — working to fulfill its duty to defend and protect its citizens entirely in adherence to the principles of international law — is outrageous and cannot be excepted by anyone,” he added. “We will not forget who started this war, and who raped, butchered, burned, brutalized, and kidnapped innocent citizens and families.”

Hamas carried out a multipronged attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing roughly 1,200 people and taking another 250 people hostage. The majority of the victims were civilians, while many of them were killed in their homes surrounded by their loved ones.

Israel’s military response has lasted for seven months and is ongoing. It has resulted in significant destruction throughout the strip, forced the displacement of most of the population, and the deaths of tens of thousands of people — civilians and combatants alike.

Chief prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement his office has “reasonable grounds” to believe that Netanyahu and Gallant were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, willful killing and murder, intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population, and extermination.

Similarly, he added that his office has “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas leaders “bear criminal responsibility for” war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are facing charges of extermination as a crime against humanity, murder as a crime against humanity, taking hostages as a war crime, rape and other acts of sexual violence, torture, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity.

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Yair Lapid, an Israeli opposition leader, reiterated that the decision is a “complete moral failure, we cannot accept the outrageous comparison between Netanyahu and Sinwar, between the leaders of Israel and the leaders of Hamas.”

Israel is not a member of the court; however, the warrants could affect their ability to travel abroad.

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