Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes

Update Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes
Israel on Monday slammed as a “historical disgrace” an application by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes

Israel, Hamas reject bid before ICC to arrest leaders for war crimes
  • Israel slams as a ‘historical disgrace’ the demand to arrest their leaders for war crimes
  • US President Joe Biden denounces the ICC bid as ‘outrageous’

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israel and Hamas, engaged in heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip, both angrily rejected on Monday moves to arrest their leaders for war crimes made before an international court.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan said he had applied for arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas leaders over the conflict.

Israel slammed as a “historical disgrace” the demand targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while the Palestinian militant group Hamas said it “strongly condemns” the move.

Israel’s top ally the United States joined the condemnation, while France said it supported the court’s independence and its “fight against impunity.”

Netanyahu said he rejected “with disgust The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas.”

Khan said in a statement that he was seeking warrants against the Israeli leaders for crimes including “wilful killing,” “extermination and/or murder,” and “starvation.”

He said Israel had committed “crimes against humanity” during the war, started by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, as part “of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population.”

Khan also said the leaders of Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions committed during the October 7 attack.

These included “taking hostages,” “rape and other acts of sexual violence,” and “torture,” he said.

“International law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader — no one — can act with impunity.”

The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there, a point noted by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

However, the court has no mechanism to enforce its warrants.

US President Joe Biden denounced the ICC bid as “outrageous” and said “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Germany agreed, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying the warrants gave “a false impression of equivalence.”

Biden also rejected accusations in a separate tribunal, the UN International Court of Justice, where South Africa has alleged that Israel’s war in Gaza is genocidal.

“What’s happening is not genocide,” Biden told a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House on Monday.

South Africa welcomed the move at the ICC.

The war ground on unabated, with Israeli forces battling Hamas in Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, as well as in other flashpoints in central and northern areas.

Israel defied international opposition almost two weeks ago when it sent troops into Rafah, which is crowded with civilians and which the military has described as the last Hamas stronghold.

Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting Hamas in Gaza until the Iran-backed Islamist group is defeated and all remaining hostages are released.

The United Nations said more than 812,000 Palestinians had fled Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

“The question that haunts us is: where will we go?” said Sarhan Abu Al-Saeed, 46, a desperate Palestinian resident. “Certain death is chasing us from all directions.”

Witnesses said that Israeli naval forces had also struck Rafah, and medics reported an air strike on a residential building in the city’s west.

The military said Israeli troops were “conducting targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure” in eastern Rafah, where they had found “dozens of tunnel shafts” and “eliminated over 130 terrorists.”

The war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Hamas also took about 250 hostages during the attack, of whom 124 remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,562 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The Israeli military said on Monday the bodies of four hostages retrieved from Gaza last week had been found in tunnels under Jabalia in the north.

Israeli forces have been fighting in northern and central areas previously declared largely cleared of militants, with the military saying its troops had killed 200 militants in Jabalia.

Israel has imposed a siege on the long-blockaded Gaza Strip, depriving its 2.4 million people of normal access to clean water, food, medicines and fuel.

The suffering has been eased only by sporadic aid shipments by land, air and sea, but truck arrivals have slowed to a trickle amid the Rafah operation.

The European Union warned that 31 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are no longer functioning and that the rest are “on the verge of collapse, with more than 9,000 severely injured people at risk of dying.”

Air strikes continued across Gaza, including on Gaza City in the north, the military said.

Gaza’s civil defense said the bodies of eight dead, along with several wounded, were retrieved after an air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met Netanyahu on Sunday and told him Israel must link the military operation against Hamas with a “political strategy” for Gaza’s future.

Washington has pushed for a post-war plan for Gaza involving Palestinians and supported by regional powers, as well as for a broader diplomatic deal under which Israel and Saudi Arabia would normalize relations.


Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah threatens Israel, Cyprus in televised address

Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah threatens Israel, Cyprus in televised address
Updated 7 sec ago
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Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah threatens Israel, Cyprus in televised address

Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah threatens Israel, Cyprus in televised address
BEIRUT: The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Wednesday that nowhere in Israel would be safe if a full-fledged war breaks out between the two foes, and he also threatened Cyprus and other parts of the Mediterannean.
Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel for more than eight months in parallel with the Gaza War. On Tuesday, the Iran-backed group published what it said was drone footage of sensitive military sites deep in Israeli territory.
In a televised address on Wednesday, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said “there will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones” in Israel in the event of a broader war.
The group also had “a bank of targets” that it could target in precision strikes, he said.
Israel “knows that what also awaits it in the Mediterranean is very big,” Nasrallah added, without elaborating.
The group first showed it could hit a vessel at sea by striking an Israeli warship in the Mediterranean during their 2006 war.
Reports by media and analysts have for years indicated that Hezbollah acquired Russian-made anti-ship Yakhont missiles in Syria, after its forces deployed there more than a decade ago to help President Bashar Assad fight the country’s civil war.
Nasrallah also threatened Cyprus for the first time, saying it had been allowing Israel to use its airports and bases for military exercises.
“The Cypriot government must be warned that opening Cypriot airports and bases for the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon means that the Cypriot government has become part of the war and the resistance (Hezbollah) will deal with it as part of the war,” Nasrallah said.
Cyprus is not known to offer any land or base facilities to the Israeli military, but has in the past allowed Israel to use its vast airspace — its flight information region (FIR) — to occasionally conduct air drills, but never during conflict.
Sovereign British military bases have been used for operations in Syria and more recently, Yemen. The Cyprus government has no say in the matter. There are two British bases in Cyprus, which was a colony until 1960.

Jerusalem official takes on French consulate after Israel arms show ban

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate (pictured above).
Jerusalem’s deputy mayor has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate (pictured above).
Updated 26 min 17 sec ago
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Jerusalem official takes on French consulate after Israel arms show ban

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate (pictured above).
  • Organizers of the Eurosatory trade show just outside Paris said last month French authorities had banned Israeli firms
  • A City Hall statement said King’s request would not be implemented

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, an ultranationalist Israeli politician, has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate after Paris barred Israeli firms from an arms show.
Organizers of the Eurosatory trade show just outside Paris said last month French authorities had banned Israeli firms, with the French defense ministry attributing the decision the Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip’s Rafah city.
Deputy Mayor Arieh King posted on social media platform X a letter he had addressed to the municipal sanitation department, asking “to instruct Jerusalem municipal maintenance workers to cease immediately garbage removal service from the French consulate building.”
A City Hall statement said King’s request would not be implemented.
In his letter, he denounced “traitorous and anti-Israeli conduct” by French President Emmanuel Macron, who King said aimed “to harm the State of Israel and Israeli industry,” in an apparent reference to the French expo move.
“As the City Hall of Israel’s capital, we must not stand idly by and accept the French president’s decision to stand alongside the Hamas terrorist organization,” King wrote.
France has an embassy in the coastal city of Tel Aviv and a consulate in Jerusalem which also serves Palestinians in the city’s Israeli-annexed east as well as the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent state, while Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.
The Jerusalem City Hall told AFP in a statement that garbage collection would continue at the French consulate.
“The Jerusalem municipality removes trash from all parts of the city on a professional basis and provides the best service to all its residents,” it said.
A municipal official, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the press, told AFP King has no authority to decide on such a move.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu has told French media it was inappropriate to host Israeli weapons manufacturers and defense firms at the expo given Macron’s calls for an end to the fighting in Rafah, which went unheeded.
Israel, which has vowed to crush Hamas militants in Gaza following the group’s October 7 attack, sent ground troops into the far-southern city in early May despite widespread concern for Palestinian civilians sheltering there.
Seventy-four Israeli firms were set to take part in the Eurosatory event which opened on Monday. Organizers said about 10 of them were planning to exhibit weapons.
“By decision of the government authorities, there will be no stand for the Israeli defense industry at the Eurosatory 2024 fair,” Coges Events had said in a statement confirming the ban.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last week condemned “hostile policies against Israel” by France, in remarks rejected by other senior officials.


Germany cancels arrest warrant for Lebanon’s ex-central bank chief

German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief Riad Salameh for technical reasons
German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief Riad Salameh for technical reasons
Updated 3 min 17 sec ago
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Germany cancels arrest warrant for Lebanon’s ex-central bank chief

German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief Riad Salameh for technical reasons
  • The cancelation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief
  • The regional court of Munich had “confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offenses charged against the defendant“

MUNICH/BEIRUT: German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief for technical reasons, but are continuing their probe and keeping his assets frozen, the Munich prosecutor’s office told Reuters on Wednesday.
Riad Salameh, 73, was Lebanon’s central bank governor for 30 years until July 2023. In his final months as governor, Germany issued an arrest warrant for him on corruption charges, two sources in Lebanon told Reuters.
Responding to questions from Reuters, a spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday that the arrest warrant was canceled on June 10.
The spokeswoman said the cancelation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief — meaning there was “no longer any risk that he will suppress evidence in this function.”
She said the regional court of Munich had “confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offenses charged against the defendant” and that Germany’s “investigations are ongoing.”
Salameh declined a Reuters request for comment on the development.
Salameh and his brother Raja are being investigated in Lebanon and at least five European countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon’s central bank and laundering the funds abroad. They deny the accusations.
Germany confirmed in February that it was conducting money laundering investigations into Salameh and his brother, and had issued an arrest warrant.
The Munich public prosecutor’s office said in February it had also seized three commercial properties in Munich and Hamburg with a total value of around 28 million euros, and shares worth around seven million euros in a Duesseldorf-based property company, as part of the case.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office said it had “dismissed as unfounded” an appeal against the seizure order, which it said dated back to Jan. 26, 2023.
Lebanese judge Helene Iskandar, who has charged Salameh in a separate case in Lebanon and has been following up on the foreign probes into him, confirmed on Wednesday that the warrant had been canceled but that Germany’s investigation into Salameh would remain open.
Salameh still faces an arrest warrant in France as part of its own investigation into whether he embezzled public funds, as well as a resultant Interpol red notice.


Hezbollah fires more projectiles at Israel as tensions spike

An Israeli soldier checks a house that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Lebanon border
An Israeli soldier checks a house that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Lebanon border
Updated 19 June 2024
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Hezbollah fires more projectiles at Israel as tensions spike

An Israeli soldier checks a house that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Lebanon border
  • "Approximately 15 projectiles were identified from Lebanon toward the area of Kiryat Shmona," the military said
  • "IDF artillery struck the sources of fire"

JERUSALEM: Lebanon’s Hezbollah fired a fresh barrage of projectiles into northern Israel on Wednesday, the Israeli army said, a day after Israel warned of a “total war” with the Iran-backed militant group.
Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, and Israel have been trading near-daily fire since the Gaza war was triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel.
“Approximately 15 projectiles were identified from Lebanon toward the area of Kiryat Shmona, several of which were intercepted by IDF (army) aerial defense array,” the military said in a statement.
“IDF artillery struck the sources of fire,” it said, adding the incoming fire did not cause any casualties.
The military said its warplanes also struck a Hezbollah military structure in the area of Tyre and infrastructure in Khiam in Lebanon.
Hezbollah said on Wednesday it fired “dozens of Katyusha rockets and artillery rounds” at a barracks in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel in retaliation for the “Israeli enemy attacks” on Yarun and Khiam.
Lebanon’s official National News agency reported Israeli strikes on several areas in south Lebanon on Wednesday, including on the villages of Yarun and Khiam.
The Shiite Muslim movement, which also claimed a drone attack on troops in Metula in northern Israel, said four of its fighters had been killed.
The clashes came a day after the Israeli military said it had approved operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon.
“As part of the situational assessment, operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated,” the military said in a statement.
The approval came as Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned Hezbollah on Tuesday that it would be destroyed in the event of a “total war” between the two.
“We are very close to the moment when we will decide to change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon,” he said in a statement issued by his office.
“In a total war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard.”
The latest tit-for-tat comes as US presidential envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon this week, calling for an “urgent” de-escalation on the border.
The Israel-Lebanon clashes have killed at least 478 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


Shipping industry urges Red Sea action as Houthis sink second vessel

Shipping industry urges Red Sea action as Houthis sink second vessel
Updated 19 June 2024
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Shipping industry urges Red Sea action as Houthis sink second vessel

Shipping industry urges Red Sea action as Houthis sink second vessel
  • “It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed,” the world’s top shipping associations said
  • “These attacks must stop now”

LONDON: Urgent action must be taken in the Red Sea to stop attacks on merchant shipping by Yemen’s Houthis, leading industry groups said on Wednesday, after the sinking of a second ship.
Iran-aligned Houthi militants first launched drone and missile strikes on the important trade route in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. In more than 70 attacks, they have also seized one vessel and its crew and killed at least three seafarers.
“It is deplorable that innocent seafarers are being attacked while simply performing their jobs, vital jobs which keep the world warm, fed, and clothed,” the world’s top shipping associations said in a joint statement.
“These attacks must stop now. We call for states with influence in the region to safeguard our innocent seafarers and for the swift de-escalation of the situation in the Red Sea.”
The Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi militants in the Red Sea last week has sunk, salvagers confirmed on Wednesday.
The vessel was struck with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat, according to sources.
International naval forces have been deployed to provide mainly defensive support for ships still sailing through the Red Sea, but the attacks have increased significantly.
Insurance industry sources said on Wednesday there was also mounting concern over the use of attack drone boats by the Houthis.
“They are harder to defend against and potentially more lethal as they strike the waterline,” one industry source said.
“Missiles have — to date — mainly caused deck and superstructure damage (to ships).”
There have been 10 Houthi strikes so far in June compared with five in May, said Munro Anderson, head of operations at marine war risk and insurance specialist Vessel Protect, part of Pen Underwriting. “The first successful use of an unmanned surface vessel represents a new challenge for commercial shipping within an already complex environment,” he added.
Insurance industry sources said that additional war risk premiums, paid when vessels sail through the Red Sea, had hovered close to 0.7 percent of the value of a ship in recent days from around 1 percent earlier this year.
They added that with a second ship sinking and the losses likely to emerge from that, rates are likely to firm up, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra costs to every voyage.
Ships must divert around southern Africa, which is the best way to protect seafarers, said Stephen Cotton, General Secretary with the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the leading seafarer’s union.
“We would also welcome proper escorts and the shielding of ships by naval forces, which would reduce the risks of ships being hit,” he added.