The war between Israel and Hamas, since the terrorist group’s attack on Israeli civilians on October 7, has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. A toll that can only increase with the intensification of hostilities. Both belligerents face war crimes charges.
The international NGO Human Rights Watch cites as war crimes the deliberate killing, hostage-taking and torture of Israeli civilians by Palestinian armed groups, as well as Israeli air-land-sea counterstrikes in Gaza that killing thousands of Palestinian non-combatants.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for Palestinian civilians to be protected, expressing concern over “flagrant violations of international humanitarian law” in Gaza and saying the Hamas attack did not occur “in the void.”
Israel’s ambassador to the UN criticized Guterres for justifying the attack that left some 1,400 Israelis dead, most of them civilians. He demanded his resignation. Israel’s foreign minister accused Guterres of justifying terrorism.
Israel under ICC investigation from 2021
Since 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has been investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories. He has not yet issued an arrest warrant.
Former ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the investigation covered events in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since June 2014, when war broke out between Israel and Palestinian activists. This conflict resulted in the death of 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, while on the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed.
After a five-year investigation, Bensouda said there was a “reasonable basis” to believe crimes had been committed by both sides, the Israeli military and Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, as well as other groups Palestinian armed forces.
The two sides are currently engaged in a fifth war and have been involved in numerous smaller skirmishes.
Israel is not cooperating with the investigation, saying the ICC has no authority to investigate the Jewish state or its officials. The country has never ratified the treaty creating the Court. Like the United States. The Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank has been part of the ICC since 2015.
Israel even accused the ICC of “anti-Semitism” for opening the investigation and led a media campaign to try to block it. When the ICC declared itself competent, its decision was immediately rejected by Jerusalem and Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris affirmed the United States’ opposition to any investigation by the Court into possible war crimes committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories since 2014.
War crime: parallel Ukraine-Gaza?
British Karim Khan, who succeeded Fatou Bensouda as the ICC’s chief prosecutor, is determined to continue his investigation.
On 19 May 2023, Russia issued a search and arrest notice against Karim Khan in retaliation for the international arrest warrant issued against Vladimir Putin by the ICC. The Hague Tribunal accuses the Russian president of having committed war crimes in Ukraine by deporting Ukrainian children to Russia. Who will Khan target for war crimes against children in Gaza and Israel?