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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Israeli officials fear international court is preparing arrest warrants over Gaza war

WASHINGTON ― Israeli officials are growing concerned the International Criminal Court could issue criminal warrants against their top officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opening up the possibility they could be arrested if they travel to other countries.

Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, singled out "rumors" that the ICC will issue arrest warrants against high-ranking government and Israel Defense Forces officials in a statement late Sunday.

In anticipation, Katz said he instructed all Israel embassies across the world to "immediately prepare for the outbreak of a severe anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli antisemitic wave in the world."

The ICC is investigating Hamas' Oct. 7 attack as well as Israel's brutal seven-month war in Gaza aimed at defeating Hamas. The ICC, based in The Hague, can prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.

Warrants for Netanyahu or other Israeli officials would not result in their immediate arrests. Neither the U.S. nor Israel are members of the court and do not recognize its jurisdiction. But warrants could prevent Israeli officials from traveling to the 124 countries that are ICC members, where they would be subject to arrest. 

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"We've been really clear about the ICC investigation. We do not support it. We don't believe that they have the jurisdiction," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

More:Israel agrees not to invade Rafah until consulting with US, Biden admin official says

TOPSHOT - A Palestinian looks at the damage to buildings after Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 29, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: 2150161328

Which Israeli officials could the ICC charge?

Although it is not clear what charges the ICC might bring, targets of criminal warrants by the ICC could also include Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

"There is nothing more twisted than trying to prevent Israel from defending itself against a murderous enemy that openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel," Katz said. "If the orders are issued, they will harm the commanders and soldiers of the IDF and give a boost to the terrorist organization Hamas and the radical Islamic axis led by Iran against which we are fighting."

"We will not bow our heads and we will not be deterred," he added.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke by phone Sunday. The two leaders discussed efforts to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, according to the White House, and Biden stressed "the need for this progress to be sustained and enhanced."

Netanyahu, in a statement Friday on X, formerly Twitter, said Israel will "never accept any attempt by the Hague Criminal Court to undermine its fundamental right to defend itself." He called the threat against IDF soldiers and Israeli public officials "scandalous."

"Israel will continue until victory in our just war against the abominable terrorists who seek to destroy us. We will never stop defending ourselves," Netanyahu said. "While the Hague Tribunal's decisions will not affect Israel's actions, they will set a dangerous precedent that threatens the soldiers and public figures of any democracy fighting criminal terrorism and dangerous aggression."

More:Antony Blinken urges Hamas to accept Israel's 'extraordinarily generous' Gaza truce plan

Separately, the ICC is investigating actions by Israeli and Palestinian militants in Palestinian territories that date back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. The Palestinian territories were admitted to the court with the status of a member state in 2015.

Will ICC warrants impact cease-fire deal?

Warrants would be a hurdle in the Biden administration's ongoing efforts to secure a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas to allow the release of some of the more than 130 hostages still held by Hamas, according to a report by Bloomberg. The U.S. fears Israel could back out of a deal if warrants are issued, Bloomberg reported.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while attending a special meeting of the World Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia, urged Hamas on Monday to swiftly accept Israel's latest proposal, which he called "extraordinarily generous."

"The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas. They have to decide, and they have to decide quickly," Blinken said.

Jean-Pierre did not say when asked whether the U.S. has concerns that potential warrants by the ICC could jeopardize a cease-fire deal.

Biden is set to speak Monday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, to push cease-fire negotiations, Jean-Pierre said.

"There has been new progress in talks, and currently the onus is indeed on Hamas. There is a deal on the table and they need to take it," Jean-Pierre said.

Contributing: Reuters

Reach Joey Garrison on X, formerly Twitter, @joeygarrison

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