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ICC prosecutor seeks arrest of Israeli and Hamas leaders

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The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has applied for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for war crimes.

Karim Khan KC said there were reasonable grounds to believe that both men bore criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity from the day of Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October onwards. Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant and Hamas's political leader Ismail Haniyeh, along with the group's military chief Mohammed Deif, are also wanted for arrest.

ICC judges will now decide whether they believe the evidence is sufficient to issue arrest warrants - something which could take weeks or months. Mr Netanyahu said in a statement that he rejected "with disgust The Hague prosecutor's comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas".

US President Joe Biden described the ICC prosecutor's move as "outrageous". Israel's foreign minister Israel Katz called the move by Mr Khan an "unrestrained frontal assault" on the victims of the 7 October attacks and a "historical disgrace that will be remembered forever". He announced that a special command centre would be set up to fight the decision, which he said was intended to tie Israel's hands and deny it the right to self-defence.

Hamas demanded the “cancellation of all arrest warrants issued against leaders of the Palestinian resistance” and denounced what it called Mr Khan's "attempts... to equate the victim with the executioner". The group also complained that the application for warrants against Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant had come “seven months late”, and that other Israeli political and military leaders had not been named alongside them.

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