International Court Seeks Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu, Hamas Leaders

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the opening of an exhibition showc
AP/Dan Balilty

Prosecutor Karim Khan of the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally requested arrest warrants on Monday for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and several leaders of the genocidal Hamas terrorist organization.

Khan equated Israel’s self-defense operations against Hamas in Gaza to the widespread atrocities committed in Israel by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, explicitly calling the self-defense operation to uproot Hamas from Gaza, a territory it has controlled since 2007, “criminal.”

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan poses during an interview with AFP at the Cour d'Honneur of the Palais Royal in Paris on February 7, 2024. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) wants to prosecute "environmental crimes" without changing the court's statute, because environmental damage is often the cause or consequence of war crimes or crimes against humanity that the ICC can already judge, Karim Khan announced on February 7, 2024, in an interview with AFP. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan poses during an interview with AFP at the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais Royal in Paris on February 7, 2024 (Dimitar DILKOFF/AFP).

“Israel, like all States, has a right to take action to defend its population. That right, however, does not absolve Israel or any State of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law,” Khan wrote in his statement on the request for arrest warrants. “Notwithstanding any military goals they may have, the means Israel chose to achieve them in Gaza – namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a global body created by international legal document, the Rome Statute, that has the authority to process accusations against individual persons for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Only states that have signed onto the Rome Statute have made a commitment to abide by its warrants; neither Israel nor Palestinian political groups, which Khan referred to as a “state” of “Palestine,” have done so. Should the court grant the warrants Khan requests, Rome Statute signatory countries would have the jurisdiction to arrest the individuals targeted.

Khan requested warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant as well as several high-ranking Hamas terrorists: terror chief Yahya Sinwar, “political” leader Ismail Haniyeh, and the “commander-in-chief” of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri.

TOPSHOT - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant attend a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2023 amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. Netanyahu said on October 28 that fighting inside the Gaza Strip would be "long and difficult", as Israeli ground forces operate in the Palestinian territory for more than 24 hours. (Photo by Abir SULTAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant attend a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas (ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images).

The Hamas leaders stand accused of five separate crimes against humanity and three war crimes, all related to the atrocities of October 7, among them murder, taking of hostages, rape, and “extermination.” Khan claimed that the atrocities were part of “an international armed conflict between Israel and Palestine,” a state that does not exist.

Khan noted that the prosecution of Hamas leaders was possible due to the collaboration of the victims of October 7, who formally filed charges at the ICC in February, submitting 1,000 pages of evidence to the court.

“During my own visit to Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as to the site of Supernova Music Festival in Re’im, I saw the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today,” Khan wrote. “Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness.”


The destruction caused by Hamas militants when they infiltrated Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel. October 25, 2023 (DIMA VAZINOVICH/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images).

Israeli authorities documented an estimated 1,200 people killed by the Hamas invasion on October 7 and another 250 taken hostage, of which around 130 remain missing, suspected dead, or in captivity. Widespread evidence, including videos taken and uploaded to the Internet by the terrorists themselves, indicated that they engaged in atrocities such as gang rape, executions during rape, the massacre of entire families in their homes, infanticide, torture, and desecration of corpses.

Khan treated these crimes similarly to Israel’s attempt to prevent a repeat of the attack in the future.

Netanyahu and Gallant are facing three charges of “war crimes” and three of “crimes against humanity,” including “starvation,” “extermination,” and “persecution.”

“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,” Khan wrote.

Khan claimed – contrary to evidence of booming markets and an abundance of humanitarian aid in parts of Gaza, that Israel had “intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival.” Khan also blamed Israel for “arbitrarily restricting the transfer of essential supplies – including food and medicine – through the border crossings after they were reopened.” At the Rafah border crossing, the southernmost and most direct way to access civilians after Israel authorities addressed the Hamas presence in northern Gaza, multiple reports indicated that neighboring Egypt, not Israel, was responsible for keeping the border closed.

The accusations also did not address reports of Hamas actively stealing humanitarian aid and attacking crossings used to allow aid into Gaza.

Khan emphasized that treating Israeli authorities and Hamas the same way was the goal of the warrant requests.

“Let us today be clear on one core issue: if we do not demonstrate our willingness to apply the law equally, if it is seen as being applied selectively, we will be creating the conditions for its collapse,” Khan wrote. “In doing so, we will be loosening the remaining bonds that hold us together, the stabilising connections between all communities and individuals, the safety net to which all victims look in times of suffering. This is the true risk we face in this moment.”

The Israeli government issued an outraged response to the arrest requests on Monday.

“The State of Israel is waging one of the just wars fought in modern history following a reprehensible massacre perpetrated by terrorist Hamas on the 7th of October,” War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said in a statement, adding:

While Israel fights with one of the strictest moral codes in history, while complying with international law and boasting a robust independent judiciary – drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a bloodthirsty terror organization is a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy.

In April, Netanyahu had warned the ICC that issuing arrest warrants for himself and other Israeli officials would be “an outrage of historic proportions.

“International bodies like the ICC arose in the wake of the Holocaust committed against the Jewish people. They were set up to prevent such horrors, to prevent future genocides,” Netanyahu said at the time. “Branding Israel’s leaders and soldiers as war criminals will pour jet fuel on the fires of antisemitism, those fires that are already raging on the campuses of America and across capitals around the world.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.