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Israel, Hamas leaders vent ire over arrest move

Conflict continues unabated in Gaza as divisions grow in Netanyahu's coalition

Updated: 2024-05-22 09:39
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Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on May 18, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

GAZA/JERUSALEM — Israel and Hamas, engaged in heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip, both angrily rejected on Monday moves to arrest their leaders for "war crimes" made before an international court.

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor Karim Khan said he had applied for arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders over the conflict.

Khan said Israel had committed "crimes against humanity" during the conflict, started by Hamas' Oct 7 attack, as part "of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population".

Khan also said the leaders of Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, "bear criminal responsibility" for actions committed during the Oct 7 attack.

Israel slammed as a "historical disgrace" the demand targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while Hamas said it "strongly condemns" the move.

Netanyahu said he rejected "with disgust The Hague prosecutor's comparison" between Israel and Hamas.

The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there. However, the court has no mechanism to enforce its warrants.

Israel's top ally the United States joined the condemnation, while France said it supported the court's independence and its "fight against impunity".

The conflict continued unabated, with Israeli forces battling Hamas in Rafah, as well as in other flashpoints in central and northern areas.

Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting Hamas in Gaza until the group is defeated and all remaining hostages are released.

The Israeli military said on Monday the bodies of four hostages retrieved from Gaza last week had been found in tunnels under Jabalia in the north.

More than seven months into the conflict, severe divisions within the Israeli war cabinet are growing, obscuring clear answers to crucial questions about the conflict's duration, intensity and scope.

The deep disagreements have peaked recently, with Gallant and minister-without-portfolio Benny Gantz coming out harshly against Netanyahu.

Gantz even threatened to resign if the cabinet did not approve by June 8 a comprehensive plan.

Foreign interests

Eyal Pinko, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, told Xinhua News Agency that Gantz has long been influenced by the US interests, actively promoting its ambitions over an extended period.

Harel Chorev, historian and Palestinian affairs expert at Tel Aviv University, said that "Netanyahu constantly refuses to deal with the postwar issue, while Gantz wants to force him to talk about it and to provide a decent plan".

He said a divided cabinet might lead to a more right-handed government or policy, being harsher in the Gaza issue.

Yonatan Freeman, international relations expert at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that the divisions in the cabinet and the possible departure of Gantz would not affect the way the operation is conducted.

Agencies - Xinhua

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