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World

Israeli Authorities Fear International Criminal Court (ICC) is Ready to Issue Arrest Warrants Regarding Conflict

Israeli officials, along with foreign counterparts, increasingly suspect that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is preparing to issue arrest warrants for high-ranking government figures regarding their actions during the conflict with Hamas. The officials also speculate that the court is considering warrants for Hamas leaders.

If the ICC proceeds, Israeli officials could potentially face accusations related to obstructing humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza and responding excessively to the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7. These concerns were voiced by two of the five officials, all speaking anonymously due to lack of authorization to discuss the matter publicly.

Those officials, apprehensive about the possible repercussions, believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might be among those targeted. However, it remains unclear which Hamas members might be charged or the specific allegations.

Israeli officials did not divulge the basis of their concerns regarding potential ICC action, and the court declined to comment on the matter.

Arrest warrants from the ICC would likely be perceived globally as a significant moral rebuke, particularly for Israel, which has faced international criticism for its conduct in Gaza, including from President Biden, who labeled it as “over the top.”

Such warrants could also impact Israel’s policies as it continues its military campaign against Hamas. One official noted that the possibility of ICC warrants has influenced recent Israeli decision-making.

Both Israeli and foreign officials admit to being unaware of the current stage of the ICC process. Any warrants would require approval from a panel of judges and may not necessarily lead to trials or immediate arrests.

Karim Khan, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, has previously confirmed investigations into incidents during the conflict but declined to comment for this article, citing a policy of not responding to media speculation.

While Mr. Netanyahu’s office also refrained from commenting directly, the Prime Minister expressed concern on social media about any ICC intervention, labeling it as a dangerous precedent threatening democracies’ officials fighting terrorism.

Notably, the ICC, based in The Hague, is the only permanent international court empowered to prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. However, it lacks its police force and relies on member states, excluding Israel and the United States, for arrests.

Despite the absence of trials in absentia, ICC warrants can hinder travel for those named.

The October raid by Hamas resulted in approximately 1,200 deaths and 250 abductions, according to Israeli officials. Subsequent conflict in Gaza, including heavy Israeli bombardment, claimed over 34,000 lives according to Gazan officials, causing extensive damage and humanitarian crises.

The Israeli assault prompted the International Court of Justice in The Hague to hear genocide accusations against Israel, sparking protests in the United States.

If the ICC issues arrest warrants, it would carry significant stigma, placing the accused in the same category as figures like Omar al-Bashir and Vladimir Putin.

The ICC’s jurisdiction over Gaza and the West Bank stems from Palestine’s membership. Mr. Khan has pledged impartial investigation into incidents since October 7, seeking to uphold victims’ rights regardless of nationality.

While Mr. Khan’s office has also probed alleged war crimes from the 2014 conflict, it remains unclear whether new warrants would extend from that investigation.

Hamas and the Israeli military declined to comment, as did the office of Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister.

In general, Israeli officials assert compliance with laws of war and efforts to protect civilians, attributing civilian casualties to Hamas’s tactics. Hamas denies committing atrocities on October 7, despite contrary evidence, claiming its fighters aimed to avoid civilian harm.

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