Israel Tries to Contain Fallout Over ICC Warrant Requests After Allies Voice Support for the Move 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, in Jerusalem, May 6, 2024.  (Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, in Jerusalem, May 6, 2024. (Reuters)
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Israel Tries to Contain Fallout Over ICC Warrant Requests After Allies Voice Support for the Move 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, in Jerusalem, May 6, 2024.  (Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a wreath-laying ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, in Jerusalem, May 6, 2024. (Reuters)

Israel's foreign minister was headed to France on Tuesday in a bid to contain the fallout from the decision by the prosecutor of the world court to request arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, a move supported by several European countries, including key ally France.

France, as well as Belgium and Slovenia, each said Monday they backed the move by International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan, who accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders — Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Their support exposes divisions in the West's approach to Israel and deepens the country's global isolation over its conduct in the war in Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz' meetings with his French counterpart and other senior officials could set the tone for how countries navigate the warrants — if they are eventually issued — and whether they could pose a threat to Israeli leaders.

Israel still has the support of its top ally, the United States, as well as other Western countries that spoke out against the decision. But if the warrants are issued, they could complicate international travel for Netanyahu and Gallant. Israel itself is not a member of the court.

As the fallout from the prosecutor's decision spiraled, violence continued in the region, with an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank killing at least seven Palestinians, including a local doctor, according to Palestinian health officials.

In a late-night statement Monday about the ICC prosecutor's warrant requests, France said it “supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and the fight against impunity in all situations.”

“France has been warning for many months about the imperative of strict compliance with international humanitarian law and in particular about the unacceptable nature of civilian losses in the Gaza Strip and insufficient humanitarian access,” the statement said.

France has a large Jewish community and has close trade and diplomatic ties with Israel, whose leaders frequently visit.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said Monday in a post on X that “crimes committed in Gaza must be prosecuted at the highest level, regardless of the perpetrators.”

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the prosecutor's move as disgraceful and antisemitic. US President Joe Biden also lambasted the prosecutor and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. The United Kingdom called the move “not helpful,” saying the ICC does not have jurisdiction in the case, while Israeli ally Czech Republic called Khan's decision “appalling and completely unacceptable.”

A panel of three judges will decide whether to issue the arrest warrants and allow a case to proceed. The judges typically take two months to make such decisions.

Israel has faced rising criticism from even its closest allies over the war in Gaza, which is now in its eighth month. More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count. The war has sparked a humanitarian crisis that has displaced much of the coastal enclave's population and driven parts of it to starvation, which Khan said Israel used as a “method of warfare.”

The war between began on Oct. 7, following Hamas' deadly attack, when the fighters from Gaza crossed into Israel and killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostage. Khan accused Hamas' leaders of crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder and sexual violence.

Since the war began, violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank.

On Tuesday, an Israeli raid into the Jenin refugee camp and the adjacent city of Jenin killed at least seven Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The area has both has long been a bastion of armed struggle against Israel.

The military said its forces struck gunmen during the operation while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group said its fighters battled the Israeli forces.

However, according to Wissam Abu Baker, the director of Jenin Governmental Hospital, the medical center’s surgery specialist Ossayed Kamal Jabareen was among the dead. He was killed on his way to work, Abu Baker said.

Jenin and the refugee camp, seen as a hotbed of militancy, have been frequent targets of Israeli raids, long before Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza broke out.

Since the start of the war, nearly 500 Palestinians have been killed in West Bank fighting, many of them gunmen, as well as others throwing stones or explosives at troops. Others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Israel says it is cracking down on soaring militancy in the territory, pointing to a spike in attacks by Palestinians on Israelis. It has arrested more than 3,000 Palestinians since the start of the war in Gaza.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem, which it later annexed, and the Gaza Strip, which it withdrew troops and settlers from in 2005. The Palestinians seek those territories as part of their future independent state, hopes for which have been dimmed since the war in Gaza erupted.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.