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The ICC’s Arrest Warrant For Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

Written by Rebecca Oxtot

Edited by Queenie Lin and Annika Lilja

Image under Public

On May 20th, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan requested warrants for arrest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Yuav Gallant, as well as the three Hamas leaders Yuhia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Henyah. This is an important development in the international response to the Israel-Hamas War, as the ICC Prosecutor makes efforts to hold both parties accountable for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

According to Khan’s official statement, the case has been brought against the leaders of Hamas for crimes that include sexual violence, murder, and extermination as a crime against humanity, committed during their attack against Israel on October 7th. 

The case brought against the Israeli officials is for actions committed in the Gaza Strip beginning on October 8th. These crimes include the usage of civilian starvation as a military tactic, intentional attacks on a civilian population, and wilfully causing great suffering.

Unsurprisingly, the arrest warrant application has sparked outrage from numerous parties. In an interview with MSNBC reporter Stephanie Ruhle, the Israeli Prime Minister denied the purposeful starvation of Palestinians, claiming they “supplied half a million tons of food and drugs, [and] 20,000 trucks.”

This contradicts the conclusion reached unanimously by the Panel of Experts in International Law, which determined that the arrest warrant application and the evidence submitted in its support demonstrate reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes described were committed and the current suspects are responsible.

Both the U.S. and Israel have criticized the potential warrant for drawing an equivalence between Israel and Hamas. In a press conference, the U.S. Secretary of State criticized the warrant and stated, “We reject the Prosecutor’s equivalence of Israel with Hamas. It is shameful” (Blinken, 2024). This sentiment was mirrored by Netanyahu in his interview with MSNBC, making it a common theme in the criticisms of the arrest warrant application. 

Additionally, this sentiment has also been expressed by the opposing side of the war. According to the BBC, Hamas demanded the withdrawal of the allegations against its leaders on the social media site Telegram, stating that it was “equating the victim with the executioner.”

One counter to this argument, voiced by law professor Adil Haque and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is that no moral equivalence has been drawn, and both parties are rather being held to the same standard of international law. 

However, the response to the requested arrest warrants has not been entirely negative. According to PBS, Belgium, Slovenia, and France have all come out in support of the ICC Prosecutor’s case.

The potential arrest warrant raises questions about the authority of the ICC. The Panel of Experts in International Law unanimously agreed that the crimes are within the jurisdiction of the ICC, due to Palestine’s status as a member state. However, neither the U.S. nor Israel are member states of the ICC and do not recognize its authority. 

The approval of the arrest warrant would likely result in a similar scenario as the 2023 arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin. In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ICC approved an arrest warrant against Putin. However, Russia does not recognize the authority of the ICC. Thus, the arrest warrant obliges all ICC member states to detain Putin if he enters their territory, but this has not resulted in his arrest.

The ICC prosecutor's arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Yuav Gallant, as well as the three Hamas leaders Yuhia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Henyah, has yet to be approved. The jurisdiction of the organization is widely debated, and the impact of the potential arrest warrant is unknown. 



“Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel)” International Court of Justice, May 28 2024.

Berg, Raffi “ICC prosecutor seeks arrest of Israeli and Hamas Leaders” BBC News, May 20, 2024.

Blinken, Antony “Warrant Applications by the International Criminal Court” U.S. Department of State, May 20, 2024.

Corder, Mike “ICC prosecutor's warrant requests for Israel and Hamas leaders ignite debate about court’s role” AP News, May 22, 2024.

Federman, Josef “ICC prosecutor seeks war crimes arrest warrant for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Netanyahu” PBS News, May 20, 2024.

Khan, Karim “Statement of ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC: Applications for Arrest Warrants in the Situation in the State of Palestine” International Criminal Court, May 20, 2024.

“Prepared Remarks: Sanders on ICC Seeking Arrest Warrants for Hamas and Israeli Leaders Amidst the Ongoing Humanitarian Disaster in Gaza” Bernie Sanders U.S. Senator for Vermont, May 22, 2024.

“‘We were certainly surprised’: Netanyahu on whether he underestimated Hamas before Oct. 7” MSNBC, May 21, 2024.


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