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The International Criminal Court (ICC) has confirmed that it is seeking arrest warrants for several Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over alleged war crimes committed on October 7 and during the ongoing conflict in Gaza. However, even if the warrants are approved, there is no guarantee that the leaders will ever be arrested or tried on the charges. The ICC, established in 2002, has jurisdiction to prosecute in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes that traditional criminal systems cannot handle. It relies on the cooperation of its 124 member countries to enforce warrants, make arrests, transfer prisoners, freeze assets, and enforce sentences.

While dozens of individuals have been tried through the ICC, some have managed to ignore the warrants issued for their arrests. Vincent Putin was issued a warrant in March 2023 over the alleged illegal deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, but neither he nor the commissioner for children’s rights have faced the court. Other individuals arrested by the ICC include former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi of Libya, and Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir, who faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, remains a fugitive in Sudan and has evaded arrest despite appeals to the UN Security Council to compel member compliance.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan recently applied for arrest warrants for five individuals involved in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, are facing charges related to causing starvation as a method of war, denying humanitarian relief efforts, deliberately targeting civilians, and other crimes. Three members of Hamas are also facing charges for crimes on their side of the conflict, including extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape, and sexual assault in detention. The conflict between Israel and Hamas began when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in numerous casualties and hostages. In response, Israel declared war on Hamas, leading to a ground invasion and displacement of millions of people in the region.

The United States has raised concerns about the ICC seeking warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, warning that it could disrupt the peace process in the region. President Biden criticized the ICC for equating Israel with Hamas, stating that there is no equivalence between the two. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also denounced the ICC’s decision, claiming that it could jeopardize efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement to release hostages. Despite international pressure and criticism, the ICC remains determined to pursue justice for alleged war crimes, although the enforcement of arrest warrants remains uncertain. The conflict between Israel and Hamas has sparked international debate and calls for accountability from all parties involved.

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