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Will the ICC issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials? (Design: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

While the decision by the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to apply for arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders drew stern criticism from Israel and its US ally, there has been mixed reaction from other countries as well as the European Union (EU).

Karim Khan announced on Monday that his office had filed applications for arrest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for “war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

Khan also applied for arrest warrants for three Palestinian leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza; Mohammed Deif, the leader of Al-Qassam Brigades; and the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamas

In a statement on Monday Hamas said the arrest warrants against “the occupation leaders came seven months late” during which Israel had committed “thousands of crimes against Palestinian civilians.”

“The Public Prosecutor should have arrest and detention orders against all officials from the occupation leaders who gave orders, and soldiers who participated in committing crimes, in accordance with Articles 25, 27 and 28 of the Rome Statute, which emphasized the individual criminal responsibility of every official, commander, or any person who ordered, or instigated, committed, assisted or aided in the commission of crimes, or failed to take measures to prevent the commission of crimes,” the movement said in a statement.

Hamas “strongly denounces 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, without a legal basis.”

The movement said it “demands the cancellation of all arrest warrants issued against Palestinian resistance leaders, as these warrants violate international conventions and resolutions.”

Israel

In a video message on Monday, Netanyahu called the decision “outrageous,” “a disgrace” and “a moral outrage of historic proportions.”

“It will cast an everlasting mark of shame on the international court,” he said, accusing Khan of “callously pouring gasoline on the fires of antisemitism that are raging across the world”.

He reiterated that “no amount of pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent Israel from defeding itself against those who seek our destruction.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog slammed “any attempt to draw parallels between these atrocious terrorists and a democratically elected government of Israel.”

He said Israel was “working to fulfill its duty to defend and protect its citizens entirely in adherence to the principles of international law,” and such an attempt was “outrageous and cannot be accepted by anyone”.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the prosecutor’s “parallel between the terrorist organization Hamas and the State of Israel is despicable and disgusting. The State of Israel is not a party to the Court and does not recognize its authority.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said on X: “We haven’t seen such a show of hypocrisy and hatred of Jews like that of the Hague Tribunal since Nazi propaganda.”

United States

US President Joe Biden called the arrest applications against Israeli leaders “outrageous.”

“And let me be clear: whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.  We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security,” Biden stated.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We reject the prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas.”

The US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN and Ambassador Robert Wood called the move by the ICC “shameful,” according to the Anadolu news agency.

“In any way that there may have been to try to equate what Hamas, a terrorist organization, has done, what they did on Oct. 7, in equating the democratically elected government in Israel is trying to defend itself. There’s no equivalency at all in our view,” said Robert Wood in response to a question by Anadolu.

“As the (US) President (Joe Biden) said very clearly, it’s outrageous to indict Israeli leaders,” Wood added. “Israel is fighting a war of self-defense. Russia was not fighting a war of self-defense. It was a war of aggression. It’s still being played out every day. You can ask the Ukrainian people.”

United Kingdom

The spokesperson for British prime minister Rishi Sunak said “This action is not helpful in relation to reaching a pause in the fighting, getting hostages out or getting humanitarian aid in.”

The spokesperson added “The UK, as with other countries, does not yet recognize Palestine as a state and Israel is not a state party to the Rome Statute.”

Germany

Germany said it “respects the independence and procedures” of the International Criminal Court (ICC) while noting some concerns.

“In this case, the Pre-Trial Chamber now has to decide on the applications of the Prosecutor for the issuance of arrest warrants as a first step,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The court will have to answer a number of difficult questions, including the question of its jurisdiction and the complementarity of investigations between constitutional states affected, such as Israel.”

It added that “the simultaneous application for arrest warrants against Hamas leaders on the one hand and two Israeli officials  on the other has created the incorrect implication of equivalence.”

“Nevertheless, the Court will now have two very different situations to assess, as presented in detail by the Prosecutor in his applications.”

France

“France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situations,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“As far as Israel is concerned, it will be up to the court’s pre-trial chamber to decide whether to issue these warrants, after examining the evidence put forward by the prosecutor,” the ministry added.

European Union

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “The mandate of the ICC, as an independent international institution, is to prosecute the most serious crimes under international law. All States that have ratified the ICC statutes are bound to execute the Court’s decisions.”

Türkiye

The Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said the ICC application was “a delayed but positive decision.”

“Israeli officials who target innocent people must be brought to justice as soon as possible and held accountable,” he said on X. “As Turkey, we will always continue to keep occupying Israel’s injustices, genocide, and crimes against humanity on the agenda, and we will continue to stand by our Palestinian brothers in their just cause.”

Ireland

Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs, Jennifer Carrol MacNeil reportedly said: “The independence of the court is what’s important,” and that Khan had done “a very substantial body of work” on the case.

She said it would have no bearing on Ireland’s plans to recognize the Palestinian state, according to Ireland’s RTE news site.

“The question around Ireland recognizing the state of Palestine is a much longer term project, recognixing that we would like to see a political solution in the medium and long term, which we believe is the only resolution to this conflict,” MacNeil reportedly said.

South Africa

South Africa welcomed the ICC’s decision saying the Rome Statute is premised on holding those most responsible for atrocity crimes accountable for their conduct.

“South Africa is committed to the international rule of law, universal respect for human rights and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation and not war, and the self-determination of all peoples, including the Palestinians,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement.

He added, “We have also consistently held that all participants to the conflict must ensure that fighting and hostilities come to an immediate end, that all hostages must be released immediately, and that Israel immediately withdraws its military forces from Gaza.”

Ramaphosa said “This the only way in which the rights of the Palestinian civilian population can be protected and the basis for sustainable peace can be achieved.”

China

​​Avoiding a direct comment, China on Tuesday called on the ICC to uphold an “objective” stance after it issued warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders, state media reported, according to the Anadolu news agency.

“We support all efforts of the international community to promote a comprehensive, fair, and lasting solution to the Palestinian question,” Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, reportedly told reporters in Beijing.

“It is hoped that the International Criminal Court will uphold an objective and fair stance and exercise its powers in accordance with the law,” Wang replied when asked for a comment on ICC warrants against Israel and Hamas leaders.

Australia

Australia respects the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its role in upholding international law, said An official from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reportedly said:

“The decision on whether to issue arrest warrants is a matter for the court in the independent exercise of its functions. It is not appropriate to comment on matters before the court.”

According to Anadolu, the unnamed official was quoted by local ABC News as saying: “Any country under attack by Hamas would defend itself. And in defending itself, every country is bound by the same fundamental rules. Israel must comply with international humanitarian law.”

Oman

Oman welcomed the ICC’s decision with Foreign Minister Badr Albusaidi saying on X:“I welcome the cleared-eyed judgment of the ICC.”

He added: “History will remember the real criminals committing genocide and war crimes against humanity. Justice must prevail.”

(PC, Anadolu)

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