The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday he is seeking arrest warrants for leaders of Israel and Hamas, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over actions taken during their seven-month war.
While Netanyahu and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, do not face imminent arrest, the announcement by ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan was a symbolic blow that deepened Israel’s isolation over the war in Gaza.
Khan accused Netanyahu, Gallant, and three Hamas leaders—Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh—of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.
A panel of three judges will consider the prosecutor’s evidence and determine whether to issue arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the chief prosecutor’s decision against its leaders is “a historic disgrace that will be remembered forever.” He said he would work with world leaders to ensure that any such warrants are not enforced on Israel’s leaders.
Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by the West, also denounced the ICC prosecutor’s request to arrest its leaders.
Still, Netanyahu has come under heavy pressure at home to end the war sooner than later. Thousands of Israelis have joined weekly demonstrations calling on the government to reach a deal to bring home Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity.
In recent days, the two other members of his war cabinet, Gallant and Benny Gantz, have threatened to resign if Netanyahu does not spell out a clear postwar vision for Gaza.
In a statement, Hamas accused the prosecutor of trying to “equate the victim with the executioner.” It said it has the right to resist Israeli occupation, including “armed resistance.”
Israel has waged a brutal campaign to dismantle the Hamas in Gaza. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, at least half of them women and children, according to the latest estimates by Gaza health officials.
The United Nations and other aid agencies have repeatedly accused Israel of hindering aid deliveries throughout the war. Israel denies this, saying there are no restrictions on aid entering Gaza and accusing the U.N. of failing to distribute aid. Israel is also facing a South African case in the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s top court, accusing Israel of genocide. Israel denies those charges.

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