France splits from Western allies to back ICC arrest warrants of Israel and Hamas leaders

Credit: AP

France and Belgium have thrown their support behind the world's top war crimes court's arrest warrants for leaders of both Israel and Hamas.

It comes after Israel and the US both harshly condemned an effort by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Israeli officials in connection with the seven-month war in Gaza.

France's move marks a major split in its position from its Western allies, including the UK, Italy and the US.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called chief prosecutor Karim Khan’s announcement a “disgrace” and an attack on the Israeli military and all of Israel.

He also vowed to press ahead with Israel’s war against Hamas militants.

Earlier Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Yoav Gallant said the military would expand its operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in its efforts to crush Hamas.

“As prime minister of Israel, I reject with disgust the Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murders of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

“No pressure and no decision in any international forum will prevent us from striking those who seek to destroy us.”

In his announcement earlier Monday, Mr Khan said he believes Netanyahu, Gallant and three Hamas leaders - Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh - are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

President Joe Biden issued a strongly worded statement denouncing Mr Khan’s announcement, saying “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence - none - between Israel and Hamas.”

“We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security,” Biden added.

The Biden administration has opposed a full-fledged invasion of Rafah, however, because of fears for the civilian population.

Hamas issued a separate statement denouncing the request to arrest its leaders, accusing Mr Khan of trying to “equate the victim with the executioner.”

Hamas said it has the right to resist Israeli occupation, including “armed resistance.”.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the October 7 attacks, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The attacks in Israel by Hamas killed around 1,200 people, most of whom were civilians, and they triggered full-blown conflict in Gaza. Hamas took around 250 hostages, and Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

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