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Global Tensions Rise: ICC Issues War Crime Warrants for Israeli and Hamas Leaders

Daniel Kim Views  

AP-Yonhap

Europe is divided over the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants on war crime charges against both the Israeli and Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. This contrasts with the response when a similar warrant was sought against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After the warrant request on the 20th, many European nations responded that it was inappropriate to lump together Israel’s leadership and Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization, in the same warrant.

However, countries like France and Belgium have expressed support for the ICC’s decision, insisting that both Israel and Hamas should be held accountable for war crimes in Gaza.

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, holding them responsible for war crimes committed in Gaza.

France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed support for the ICC’s independence and its fight against impunity for crimes, condemning Hamas once again for its surprise attack on Israel and sexual crimes committed on October 7th last year.

France also emphasized the Israeli leadership’s responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, having previously warned Israel about “the need to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law” about the unacceptable scale of civilian casualties and insufficient humanitarian support in Gaza.

Belgium’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib also expressed support for the ICC’s decision, stating on X that “Crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators.”

The Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a similar statement, arguing that all war crimes committed in Gaza should be handled independently and fairly.

On the other hand, the German Foreign Office criticized the warrant request for giving the “wrong impression of equating” Hamas and the Israeli leadership, declaring its support for Israel’s right to defense and condemnation of Hamas’ war crime allegations.

The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and Austria also expressed concern about the warrant request lumping together the leaders of Hamas, a terrorist organization aiming for the destruction of Israel, and the democratically elected Israeli leadership.

A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticized the move, stating, “And what I’m very clear about is that this will make absolutely no difference in getting a pause in the fighting, humanitarian aid into the region, or recovering hostages.”

This is a stark contrast to when Khan issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. At that time, European countries including the UK and Czech Republic welcomed the warrant request as the start of a process to hold Putin accountable for war crimes.

Meanwhile, the arrest warrants requested by Prosecutor Khan against the Israeli and Hamas leadership are expected to be reviewed by the ICC trial chamber for issuance.

While the likelihood of Prime Minister Netanyahu standing trial is low even if the warrant is issued, it is expected to restrain his diplomatic activities.

This is because Israel, not being a member of the ICC, has no obligation to arrest or extradite its leaders. However, it remains uncertain whether Israel continues to have a leader who cannot visit foreign capitals.

The Times assessed that Khan’s pursuit of the warrant could pave the way for Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose popularity has declined after the Gaza war, to become a martyr in his own country. It further analyzed that “regardless of how unfair he and his supporters in Israel may think the ICC arrest warrant is, it will likely signify the end of his long diplomatic career.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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