Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, oj May 20, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

THE HAGUE: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday requested warrants for top leaders of Israel and Hamas over war crimes allegedly committed during and after the October 7 attacks.

Hamas: The charges are against Yahya Sinwar, leader of the group in Gaza; Ismail Haniyeh, the group’s political leaders; and Hamas military strategist Mohammed Deif.

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The war crimes charges are the following: taking hostages, cruel treatment, and outrages against personal dignity.

The crimes against humanity charges are: extermination, murder, rape and other acts of sexual violence, torture, other inhumane acts.

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The prosecutor alleges the three are “criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas... and other armed groups on 7 October 2023 and the taking of at least 245 hostages.”

According to the prosecutor, the trio “planned and instigated” the October 7 attacks, which “could not have been committed without their actions.”

The ICC prosecutor said there were reasonable grounds to believe “hostages from Israel have been kept in inhumane conditions, and that some have been subject to sexual violence, including rape, while being held in captivity.”

The prosecutor said investigations were continuing into “reports of sexual violence committed on October 7.”

Khan reiterated a call for the “immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel”, saying this was a “fundamental requirement of international humanitarian law.”

Israel: The charges are against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

The war crimes charges are the following: starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health, wilful killing or murder, and intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population.

The crimes against humanity charges are: extermination and/or murder, including in the context of deaths caused by starvation, persecution, and “other inhumane acts.”

The alleged crimes against humanity were committed “as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to State policy,” said the prosecutor.

“These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.”

The prosecutor said the evidence gathered showed Israel had “intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival.”

This was due to what the prosecutor called “a total siege over Gaza” alongside “other attacks on civilians, including those queuing for food”, “obstruction of aid delivery”, and “attacks on and killing of aid workers.”

These acts were committed, according to the prosecutor, “as part of a common plan to use starvation as a method of war”, whose effects were “acute, visible, and widely known.”

“Israel, like all States, has a right to take action to defend its population,” the prosecutor said in summing up the charges.

“That right, however, does not absolve Israel or any State of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law,” the statement added.

“Notwithstanding any military goals they may have, the means Israel chose to achieve them in Gaza... are criminal.”

General: The prosecutor also revealed that he had convened a panel of legal experts “as an additional safeguard” before requesting the warrants.

“Today, we once again underline that international law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all. No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian - no one - can act with impunity,” the statement said.

“Nothing can justify wilfully depriving human beings, including so many women and children, the basic necessities required for life. Nothing can justify the taking of hostages of the targeting of civilians.”

The prosecutor said the ICC judges would be the “sole arbiters as to whether the necessary standard for the issuance of warrants of arrests has been met.”

He also stressed the need for his office to be able to work “with full independence and impartiality.”

“All attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence the officials of this court must cease immediately,” said the prosecutor.

He also said he would not hesitate to request further warrants if necessary.

“I renew my call for all parties in the current conflict to comply with the law now.”