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France, Belgium support ICC warrant against Netanyahu, Hamas leaders

Published : Tuesday, 21 May, 2024 at 4:31 PM  Count : 355

An International Criminal Court prosecutor is formally seeking an arrest warrant to be issued for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An International Criminal Court prosecutor is formally seeking an arrest warrant to be issued for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel's foreign minister was headed to France on Tuesday in a bid to contain the fallout from the decision by the prosecutor of the world court to request arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, a move supported by several European countries, including key ally France, reports Associated Press.

France, as well as Belgium and Slovenia, each said Monday they backed the move by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan, who accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Their support exposes divisions in the West's approach to Israel and deepens the country's global isolation over its conduct in the war in Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz' meetings with his French counterpart and other senior officials could set the tone for how countries navigate the warrants — if they are eventually issued — and whether they could pose a threat to Israeli leaders.

Israel still has the support of its top ally, the United States, as well as other Western countries that spoke out against the decision. But if the warrants are issued, they could complicate international travel for Netanyahu and Gallant. Israel itself is not a member of the court.

As the fallout from the prosecutor's decision spiraled, violence continued in the region, with an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank killing at least seven Palestinians, including a local doctor, according to Palestinian health officials.

In a late-night statement Monday about the ICC prosecutor's warrant requests, France said it "supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and the fight against impunity in all situations."

"France has been warning for many months about the imperative of strict compliance with international humanitarian law and in particular about the unacceptable nature of civilian losses in the Gaza Strip and insufficient humanitarian access," the statement said.

France has a large Jewish community and has close trade and diplomatic ties with Israel, whose leaders frequently visit.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said Monday in a post on X that "crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators."

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the prosecutor's move as disgraceful and antisemitic. U.S. President Joe Biden also lambasted the prosecutor and supported Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas. The United Kingdom called the move "not helpful," saying the ICC does not have jurisdiction in the case, while Israeli ally Czech Republic called Khan's decision "appalling and completely unacceptable."

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.

Israel has faced rising criticism from even its closest allies over the war in Gaza, which is now in its eighth month. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count. The war has sparked a humanitarian crisis that has displaced much of the coastal enclave's population and driven parts of it to starvation, which Khan said Israel used as a "method of warfare."

The war between began on Oct. 7, following Hamas' deadly attack, when the militants from Gaza crossed into Israel and killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostage. Khan accused Hamas' leaders of crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder and sexual violence.

Since the war began, violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem, which it later annexed, and the Gaza Strip, which it withdrew troops and settlers from in 2005. The Palestinians seek those territories as part of their future independent state, hopes for which have been dimmed since the war in Gaza erupted.


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