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ICC applies for arrest warrants against Netanyahu, Gallant, 3 Hamas leaders

U.S. President Joe Biden calls warrants 'outrageous,' saying they wrongly suggests that Israel, Hamas share equal blame for war in Gaza

International Criminal Court's Chief prosecutor Karim Khan (C) requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The ICC's request for arrest warrants also included Hamas leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity on Monday, May 20, 2024. Photo by International Criminal Court/UPI
1 of 3 | International Criminal Court's Chief prosecutor Karim Khan (C) requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The ICC's request for arrest warrants also included Hamas leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity on Monday, May 20, 2024. Photo by International Criminal Court/UPI | License Photo

May 20 (UPI) -- The International Criminal Court announced applications for arrest warrants on Monday against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as well as three of Hamas's top leaders in connection with the October attack on Israel, which sparked the current Israel-Gaza war.

ICC prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan announced the application for the warrants, saying that Netanyahu and Gallant bear responsibility for numerous war crime charges including using starvation as warfare, willfully causing suffering to civilians, intentionally attacking and directing attacks against civilians, extermination, persecution and "other inhumane acts."

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"My office submits that the evidence we have collected, including interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authentication video, photo and audio material, satellite imagery and statements from alleged perpetrator groups, shows that Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival," Khan wrote.

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The Gaza Ministry of Health said in a social media update Saturday that 35,386 Palestinians have died and 79,366 more have been injured since the start of the war that followed the Hamas attack on Oct. 7.

Arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had been rumored since last month with Israel working through diplomatic back channels to attempt to block them.

Khan also applied for warrants against Yahya Siwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, commander of Hamas's military wing, and Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas's political bureau.

Khan said all three were "criminally responsible" for numerous war crimes, including extermination, murder, taking hostages, torture, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment of prisoners outrage upon personal dignity against captives.

"We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Israel by Hamas and other armed groups pursuant to organizational policies," Khan said in his statement. "Some of these crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day."

Israeli military forces on Friday said that they recovered the bodies of three people who were taken hostage during the Oct. 7 attack and then killed while escaping the Nova music festival.

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Israel President Isaac Herzog and other Israeli leaders condemned the application for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant, calling them "beyond outrageous."

"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 the complementarity and other legal norms, Herzog said.

"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."

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's finance minister, called the arrest warrant against Netanyahu and Gallan "arrest warrants for all of us" in Israel and said they should lead to the dismantling of the court.

Benny Gantz, a potential political rival to Netanyahu, called Hamas a "blood-thirty" organization" and said the arrest warrants against the Israeli represent "moral bankruptcy."

Hamas equally condemned the plans for warrants against its leaders, suggesting it is the victims of war crimes by Israel.

"Hamas movement strongly condemns the attempts of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders," Hamas said

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U.S. President Joe Biden weighed in on the ICC's application, saying that it wrongly suggests that Israel and Hamas have equal blame for the war in Gaza when Israel remains in defense of its sovereignty.

"The ICC prosecutor's application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders is outrageous," Biden said in a White House statement. "Let me be clear: Whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalency -- none -- between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security."

Meanwhile, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the country's largest Muslim civil rights group, called on Biden not to interfere with ICC's effort to prosecute the Israeli leaders.

"Just as President Biden recognized that the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant against [Russian President] Vladimir Putin due to war crimes in Ukraine was 'justified,' the president should do the same now regarding the arrest warrant applications sought by the ICC prosecutor against Benjamin Netanyahu due to war crimes in Gaza," the organization said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the arrest warrants had been issued.

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