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ICC Prosecutor Requests Arrest Warrants for Netanyahu, Hamas Leaders

State of the Union: If the warrants are granted, they are unlikely to be enforced.
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Credit: WikiMedia

Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, announced on Monday that he is seeking arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as for Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza strip.

He is also seeking warrants for Mohammad Deif, the military leader of Hamas, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s Qatar-based political leader. 


For the warrants for arrest to be issued, the ICC judges must agree with Khan’s request, a process that can take months. Making the arrest falls to the states subject by treaty to the jurisdiction of the ICC, which includes most European nations

Of 42 arrest warrants issued by the ICC, the organization has only taken 21 suspects into custody. Any arrest warrant from the ICC against any Israeli leader is especially unlikely to be carried out, as Israel, along with other states such as the U.S., China, and Russia, is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the ICC. 

Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s leading political rivals, criticized the decision, calling the prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant “moral blindness” and a “historic crime.” 

Hamas also criticized the ICC’s decision, stating that it is engaged in “armed resistance” and suggesting that the ICC include more Israeli leaders than the two selected. While Palestine is a signatory to the Rome Statute and is thus subject to the ICC, it is unlikely that the warrant will have an effect on Deif or Sinwar, who are both hiding in Gaza. It may, however, limit Haniyeh’s frequent travel around the Middle East from Qatar. 

In recent years, the ICC has issued similar unenforceable decisions. In 2023, it issued a warrant against Vladimir Putin. Previously, it had attempted to investigate U.S. servicemen for potential war crimes in Afghanistan, which resulted in Trump issuing sanctions against the ICC’s then-prosecutor.