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Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes

Israel and Hamas on Monday both angrily rejected moves to arrest their leaders for war crimes made before an international court as heavy fighting raged…

Israel and Hamas on Monday both angrily rejected moves to arrest their leaders for war crimes made before an international court as heavy fighting raged on in the Gaza Strip.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan said he had applied for arrest warrants against top Israeli and Hamas leaders over the bloody conflict.

Israel slammed as a “historical disgrace” the demand targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, while the Palestinian militant group Hamas said it “strongly condemns” the move.

Khan said in a statement that he was seeking warrants against the Israeli leaders for crimes including “wilful killing”, “extermination and/or murder” and “starvation”.

In the war started by Hamas’s October 7 attack, he said, Israel had committed “crimes against humanity” as part “of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population”.

He also said that the leaders of Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions committed during the October 7 attack.

These included “taking hostages”, “rape and other acts of sexual violence” and “torture”, Khan added.

“International law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” he added. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity.”

If granted by the ICC judges, the warrants would mean that technically any of the 124 ICC member states would be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they travelled there, but the court has no mechanism to enforce its warrants.

Nearly two weeks ago, Israel defied international opposition and sent troops into Rafah, which is crowded with civilians and which the army has described as the last Hamas stronghold.

Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting Hamas in Gaza until the Iran-backed Islamist group is defeated and all remaining hostages are released.

As the heavy fighting has rocked areas of Rafah near the Egyptian border since early May, the UN said more than 810,000 Palestinians have fled the city.

Witnesses told AFP that Israeli naval forces had also struck Rafah, and medics reported an air strike on a residential building in the city’s west.

The army said Israeli troops were “conducting targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure” in eastern Rafah where they had found “dozens of tunnel shafts”.

Gallant said Monday he had told visiting US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan of “Israel’s duty to expand the ground operation in Rafah, to dismantle Hamas and to return the hostages”.

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