Middle East crisis: Israel appears to have softened its stance during ceasefire negotiations

There is growing belief among Israeli authorities that the International Criminal Court is preparing to issue arrest warrants for government officials on charges related to the conflict with Hamas, five Israeli and foreign officials said. .

Israeli and foreign officials also believe the court is considering arrest warrants for Hamas leaders.

If the trial goes ahead, two of the five officials said Israeli officials would block the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and overly harsh response to the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7. could be accused of pursuing The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Israeli officials are concerned about the potential fallout from such an incident and have said they believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among those who could be named in the warrant. It is not clear who may face charges from Hamas or what charges they may face.

Israeli officials have not disclosed the nature of the information that prompted concerns about possible ICC action, and the court did not comment on the matter.

An arrest warrant from a court would probably be seen as a humbling moral rebuke in many parts of the world, especially for Israel. Israel in particular has faced international backlash for months, including from President Biden, who called its actions in the Gaza Strip “overreach.” ”

It could also have an impact on Israel’s policies as it ramps up military operations against Hamas. One Israeli official said the possibility of a court issuing an arrest warrant had influenced Israeli decision-making in recent weeks.

Israeli and foreign officials said they did not know what stage the process was at. Any warrant must be approved by a panel of judges and does not necessarily lead to a trial or immediate arrest of the target.

The court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, previously confirmed that his team was investigating wartime cases, but said his office “does not respond to speculation in media reports.” He declined to comment on the article.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office also declined to comment, but on Friday the prime minister said On social media, he argued that any intervention by the ICC would “set a dangerous precedent that threatens the soldiers and officials of all democracies in their fight against barbaric terrorism and wanton aggression.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not explain the motive behind his remarks, but he may have been responding to speculation in the Israeli press about an arrest warrant.

He added: “Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right to self-defense. The threat of detention is outrageous and we will not yield to it.”

The Hague-based ICC is the world’s only permanent international tribunal with the power to prosecute individuals accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The court does not have its own police force. Instead, it is Number of members: 124, which includes most European countries but not Israel or the United States, arrests people named in warrants. A defendant cannot be tried in absentia.

However, a court warrant can create obstacles to travel for the officials named there.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second from left) in Tel Aviv in January.credit…Pool photo: Ronen Zvulun

Israeli officials say about 1,200 people were killed and about 250 abducted in Israel in October last year in a Hamas-led attack. The ensuing war in Gaza, which included heavy Israeli shelling, killed more than 34,000 people, caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure, and pushed the region to the brink of famine, Gazan officials said.

Israeli military raids in Gaza have prompted a wave of protests on American university campuses as the International Court of Justice, a separate court in The Hague, is set to hear genocide charges against the state of Israel.

If the ICC issues an arrest warrant, those named in the warrant would be placed in the same category as foreign leaders such as ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. There will be a deep stigma attached to it. He was the subject of a warrant last year in connection with the war against Ukraine.

The ICC differs from the International Court of Justice, which resolves disputes between states, because it focuses on individuals rather than states.

ICC judges ruled that the tribunal has jurisdiction over Gaza and the West Bank because the Palestinians are represented on the tribunal as a Palestinian state.

Mr. Khan Said His team is investigating incidents that occurred after October 7, and he said he will “examine the evidence impartially and advocate for the rights of victims, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian.” .

Khan’s office is also investigating alleged war crimes committed during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. One of the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believes the new arrest warrant is an extension of that investigation.

Hamas and the Israeli military did not respond to requests for comment. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant’s office declined to comment.

Israeli officials generally say they are fighting according to the laws of war and have taken important steps to protect civilians, saying Hamas is hiding in civilian areas and forcing Israel to track them there. I’m accusing them of being there. Hamas on October 7 denied any atrocities and said its fighters sought to avoid harm to civilians, despite video evidence to the contrary.

Marlies Simmons, Gabby Sobelman and Myra Novec Contributed to the report.

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