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Israeli Officials Fear ICC Arrest Warrants Over War in Gaza

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Israeli officials are growing concerned about the possibility of facing prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the war in Gaza. Reports in Israeli media suggest that the ICC might issue arrest warrants soon for Israeli government and military officials. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel has warned senior political and military officials that they could soon face arrest warrants. The ICC launched a probe three years ago into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian fighters going back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. The investigation is also charged with looking at Israel’s construction of settlements in occupied territory such as the West Bank.

Israeli officials have demanded assurances from the ICC that Israel will not be targeted, suggesting that any action might constitute “anti-Semitism”. Foreign Minister Israel Katz pushed on Sunday for the ICC to waive any threat that it could target Israelis over the war, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and pushed hundreds of thousands towards famine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel “will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defence”. Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, but the Palestinian territory was admitted with the status of a member state in 2015.

The possibility of facing arrest warrants from the ICC has raised concerns among Israeli officials. The Israeli team will still be led by Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, two of Netanyahu’s close confidants, according to a person familiar with the matter. The talks are expected to focus on Israel’s threatened offensive in Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. The threat of such an offensive has increased differences between close allies the United States and Israel and raised questions about whether the US might restrict military aid if Netanyahu defies Biden and presses ahead anyway. Biden, running for re-election in November, faces pressure not just from America’s allies but from a growing number of fellow Democrats to rein in the Israeli military response in Gaza.

The investigation at the ICC is separate from a genocide case launched against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also based in The Hague. The ICJ is a United Nations court that deals with disputes between states.

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