The International Criminal Court has requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (above) and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, it said in a statement today.

The ICC is also seeking arrest warrants for the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and its chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, along with the head of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Mohammed Diab Al-Masri (known as Mohammed Al-Deif).

In a statement released on its website, the ICC’s Prosecutor Karim Khan said: “Today I am filing applications for warrants of arrest before Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court in the Situation in the State of Palestine.”

Adding that Netanyahu and Gallant “bear criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine (in the Gaza strip) from at least 8 October 2023.”

The war crimes listed include “starvation of civilians as a method of warfare”; “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population”; “extermination and/or murder … including in the context of deaths caused by starvation”; “persecution as a crime against humanity”, among others.

“My Office submits that the evidence we have collected, including interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, authenticated video, photo and audio material, satellite imagery and statements from the alleged perpetrator group, shows that Israel has intentionally and systematically deprived the civilian population in all parts of Gaza of objects indispensable to human survival,” Khan added.

“This occurred through the imposition of a total siege over Gaza,” which, he explained, was “part of a common plan to use starvation as a method of war and other acts of violence against the Gazan civilian population.”

“Notwithstanding any military goals they may have, the means Israel chose to achieve them in Gaza – namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal,” he continued.

According to the statement, members of Hamas and it’s armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, bear criminal responsibility for “taking hostages”; “rape and other acts of sexual violence as crimes against humanity”; “torture”; “cruel treatment” and “outrages upon personal dignity”.

“My Office submits there are reasonable grounds to believe that SINWAR, DEIF and HANIYEH are criminally responsible for the killing of hundreds of Israeli civilians in attacks perpetrated by Hamas (in particular its military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades) and other armed groups on 7 October 2023 and the taking of at least 245 hostages,” Khan explained.

“My Office also submits there are reasonable grounds to believe that hostages taken from Israel have been kept in inhumane conditions,” the statement added.

Khan ended his statement by highlighting the importance of ensuring the law be applied equally to both sides. “Let us today be clear on one core issue: if we do not demonstrate our willingness to apply the law equally, if it is seen as being applied selectively, we will be creating the conditions for its collapse. In doing so, we will be loosening the remaining bonds that hold us together, the stabilising connections between all communities and individuals, the safety net to which all victims look in times of suffering. This is the true risk we face in this moment.”

Responding to the news, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz denounced the seeking of arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant as “a crime of historic proportion”.

“Drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a blood-thirsty terror organisation [Hamas] is a deep distortion of justice and blatant moral bankruptcy,” Gantz said.

While Hamas warned the ICC’s decision “equates the victim with the executioner”. Sami Abu Zuhri also said the ICC decision gives encouragement to Israel to continue its “war of extermination” in Gaza.