Government source says The Hague focusing on allegations that Israel ‘deliberately starved’ Gazans; IDF gives rare press briefing over Shabbat to highlight humanitarian efforts

Israel is making a concerted effort to head off feared plans by the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials, an Israeli government source told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

The National Security Council is leading the campaign, according to the source.

The Foreign Ministry is also involved. “We are operating where we can,” said an Israeli diplomat.

The first source said the major focus of the feared ICC allegations will be that Israel “deliberately starved Palestinians in Gaza.”

Israel Defense Forces international spokesman Nadav Shoshani offered a rare briefing on Shabbat for foreign reporters about Israel’s support for the temporary humanitarian pier off Gaza, underscoring the country’s efforts to blunt the ICC campaign.

The official confirmed earlier reports from Hebrew-language media that the United States was part of a last-ditch diplomatic effort to prevent the ICC from moving forward.

Karim Ahmed Khan, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Justice in Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 12, 2021. (Marwan Ali/AP)

Writing for the Walla news site, analyst Ben Caspit said Netanyahu was “under unusual stress” over the prospect of an arrest warrant against him and other Israelis by the United Nations tribunal in The Hague, which would constitute a major deterioration in Israel’s international status.

Netanyahu was leading a “nonstop push over the telephone” to prevent an arrest warrant, focused especially on the administration of US President Joe Biden, Caspit reported.

Haaretz analyst Amos Harel reported that the Israeli government was working under the assumption that the ICC’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, may this week issue warrants for the arrest of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

Amid the reports, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Sunday that Israel “expects the court to refrain” from issuing arrest warrants.

“There is nothing more twisted than trying to prevent Israel from defending itself against a murderous enemy that openly calls for the destruction of Israel,” said Katz in a statement. “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.”

Katz stressed that Israel adheres to “all the laws of war,” and instructed Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world to prepare for a severe wave of antisemitism if the ICC issues arrest warrants.

Israel is not a member of the court, based in The Hague, and does not recognize its jurisdiction, but the Palestinian territories were admitted as a member state in 2015.

People rush to landing humanitarian aid packages dropped over the northern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024. (AFP)

Netanyahu said on Friday that any decisions by the ICC would not affect Israel’s actions, but would set a dangerous precedent.

“Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the International Criminal Court in The Hague to undermine its basic right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Telegram.

“While decisions made by the court in The Hague will not affect Israel’s actions, they will set a dangerous precedent that threatens soldiers and public figures,” he said.

One of Israel’s leading television news outlets, Channel 12, reported last week that Israel was increasingly worried by the possibility that the ICC would issue arrest warrants. The report said that the Prime Minister’s Office held an “emergency discussion” on the issue. A government spokesperson did not respond to questions on the television report or its details.

An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)

Khan, the ICC prosecutor, said in October that the court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas terrorists in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

Khan has said his team was investigating any crimes allegedly committed in Gaza, and that those found to have breached the law will be held accountable.

On October 7, Hamas led an attack on Israeli military bases and communities in which some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and 253 were taken as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza claims that more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the war, but the number cannot be independently verified, and it is believed to include both Hamas terrorists and civilians, some of whom were killed as a consequence of the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.

The IDF has also lost 261 soldiers since it launched the ground invasion in late October, bringing the number of soldiers killed since October 7 to 604.

People walk on a road lined with destroyed buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024. (AFP)

The war, now in its seventh month, has displaced most of the blockaded Palestinian territory’s 2.3 million people and created a humanitarian crisis.

With 124 permanent members, the ICC can prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression.

The investigation at the ICC is separate from the genocide case launched against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also based in The Hague.

The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is a UN court that deals with disputes between states, while the ICC is a treaty-based criminal court focusing on individual criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.



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