International Criminal Court seeks arrest warrants against Hamas leader Sinwar and Israeli PM Netanyahu for war crimes

The International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity over the October 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza, the court’s prosecutor Karim Khan has said.

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday, May 20, Khan said the ICC’s prosecution team is also seeking warrants for Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as two other top Hamas leaders known as Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades who is better known as Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader.


The warrants against the Israeli politicians mark the first time the ICC has targeted the leader of a close ally of the United States.

The decision puts Netanyahu in the company of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the ICC issued an arrest warrant over Moscow’s war on Ukraine, and the Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

A panel of ICC judges will now consider Khan’s application for the arrest warrants.

The charges against Netanyahu and Gallant include “causing extermination, causing starvation as a method of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict,” Khan told CNN.


“The fact that Hamas fighters need water doesn’t justify denying water from all the civilian population of Gaza,” he added.


More than 35,500 Palestinians have been killed and more than 79,000 wounded in Gaza since October 7, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Monday. CNN cannot independently verify the figures.

Netanyahu called the decision “a political outrage.”

“They will not deter us and we will continue in the war until the hostages are released and Hamas is destroyed,” he said at a meeting of the parliamentary group of his Likud party.

Khan said the charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri include “extermination, murder, taking of hostages, rape and sexual assault in detention.”

“The world was shocked on the 7th of October when people were ripped from their bedrooms, from their homes, from the different kibbutzim in Israel,” Khan told Amanpour, adding that “people have suffered enormously.”


Hamas-led militants killed around 1,200 people across several locations in southern Israel on October 7 and took some 250 hostages into Gaza. Many of the hostages are still being held in Gaza.


Khan said it meant crimes continued to be committed against “so many innocent Israelis … that are held hostage by Hamas and families that are waiting for their return.”

Khan said his team has a “variety of evidence” to support the application for arrest warrants against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri, including authenticated video footage and photographs from the attacks as well as evidence from eyewitnesses and survivors.


Khan said Israel had “every right and indeed an obligation to get hostages back, but you must do so by complying with the law.”


Responding to the announcement by Khan, Hamas said in a statement that it “strongly condemns the attempts of the ICC Prosecutor to equate victims with aggressors by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders without legal basis.”

“Hamas calls on the ICC Prosecutor to issue arrest warrants against all war criminals among the occupation leaders, officers, and soldiers who participated in crimes against the Palestinian people, and demands the cancellation of all arrest warrants issued against Palestinian resistance leaders,” the group added.

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