Reactions to the ICC prosecutor’s request to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Hamas leaders

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(Reuters) – The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Monday that he had requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense chief and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes.

Here are some reactions to the announcement:

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PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

Netanyahu said the ICC’s decision was absurd and that the move was intended to target all of Israel.

“I reject with disgust the comparison of the prosecutor in The Hague between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

“With how boldly do you compare Hamas, which murdered, burned, murdered, beheaded, raped and kidnapped our brothers and sisters, as well as IDF soldiers fighting a just war.”

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

“Let’s be clear: Whatever this prosecutor may suggest, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas,” Biden said in a statement.

US SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States rejects the ICC prosecutor’s request to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials and Hamas.

“We reject the prosecutor’s assertion that Israel is equivalent to Hamas,” Blinken said.

STATEMENT BY THE PALESTINIAN BATTLE GROUP HAMAS:

“Hamas strongly condemns the attempt by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants for a number of leaders of the Palestinian resistance movement.

“Hamas… demands the annulment of all arrest warrants issued against Palestinian resistance leaders for violating UN conventions and resolutions.”

ISRAEL PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG:

“Any attempt to compare these terrible terrorists with the democratically elected government of Israel – seeking to fulfill its obligation to defend and protect its citizens in full respect of the principles of international law – is outrageous and cannot be accepted by anyone.”

ISRAEL MINISTER OF MFA ISRAEL KATZ:

“I intend to speak to the foreign ministers of leading countries around the world to urge them to oppose the prosecutor’s decision and state that even if warrants are issued, they do not intend to enforce them against Israeli leaders.”

BENNY GANTZ, MINISTER OF THE ISRAEL WAR CABINET:

“Comparing the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself against vile terror with the leaders of a bloodthirsty terrorist organization (Hamas) is a profound perversion of justice and gross moral bankruptcy.”

WASEL ABU YOUSSEF, MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION (PLO):

“The Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves… The ICC has the obligation to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials who are committing the crime of genocide in the Gaza Strip.”

PRESIDENCY OF SOUTH AFRICA

“South Africa welcomes the decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Kahn Central Committee, on the application for arrest warrants for the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel and three Hamas leaders for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity…”

“The law must apply equally to all to maintain the international rule of law, ensure accountability for those who commit heinous crimes and protect the rights of victims.”

Chancellor of Austria KARL NEHAMMER:

“We fully respect the independence of the ICC. However, the fact that the leader of the Hamas terrorist organization, whose declared goal is to annihilate the State of Israel, is exchanged at the same time as the democratically elected representatives of that very state is not understandable.

SENATOR JIM RISCH, SENIOR REPUBLICAN ON THE U.S. Senate COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS:

“There is no reason for the court to investigate Israel because it is not a party to the Rome Statute and Israel has a fully functioning justice system.”

ISRAEL MINISTER OF FINANCE BEZALEL SMOTRICH:

The decision to seek arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant is “a display of hypocrisy and hatred of Jews.”

“Arrest warrants against them are arrest warrants against all of us.”

SAMI ABU ZUHRI, SENIOR HAMAS OFFICIAL:

The decision “equates the victim with the executioner” and encourages Israel to continue its “war of extermination” in Gaza.

REED BRODY, War Crimes Prosecutor:

“Many thought this request would never be granted. … Israeli leaders will finally face legal accountability for their actions. Top Hamas officials will also face justice for cruel and inhumane hostage-taking and other crimes against humanity.

“The ICC guarantees that if confirmed, Netanyahu will become a wanted person in the same category as (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir.”

HRW:

“Victims of grave abuses in Israel and Palestine have faced a wall of impunity for decades. This principled first step by the prosecutor opens the door to those responsible for the atrocities committed in recent months to answer for their actions before a fair trial. ICC member countries should stand ready to vigorously protect the ICC’s independence as hostile pressure is likely to increase as ICC judges consider (prosecutor Karim) Khan’s application.”

CZECH PRIME MINISTER PETR FIALA:

“The proposal of the ICC Chief Prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant for representatives of a democratically elected government together with the leaders of an Islamist terrorist organization is appalling and completely unacceptable.

“We must not forget that it was Hamas that attacked Israel in October and killed, injured and kidnapped thousands of innocent people. It was this completely unprovoked terrorist attack that led to the current war in Gaza and the suffering of civilians in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon.”

SPOKESMAN OF BRITISH PRIME MINISTER RISHI SUNAK:

“This action is not helpful in terms of stopping fighting, releasing hostages or providing humanitarian aid.”

“The UK, like other countries, does not yet recognize Palestine as a state, and Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute,” which defines the ICC’s areas of jurisdiction, the spokesman said.

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