Israel forces kill at least 7 Palestinians in West Bank raid

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel sought Tuesday to contain the fallout from a request by the chief prosecutor of the world’s top war crimes court to arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leadersa decision supported by three European countries, including France, a key ally.

Belgium, Slovenia and France each said Monday they supported the decision by International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan, who indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister and three Hamas leaders. war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Although no one is at imminent risk of arrest, the announcement deepens Israel’s global isolation at a time when the country faces growing criticism, even from its closest allies, over the war in Gaza. Support for arrest warrants from three European Union countries also reveals divisions in the Western approach to Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz visited France on Tuesday in response, and his meetings there could set the tone for how countries will handle arrest warrants – if they are ultimately issued – and whether they could pose a threat to Israeli leaders.

Israel still enjoys the support of its main ally, the United States, as well as other Western countries that have spoken out against the move. But if the warrants are issued, they could complicate international travel by Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, even though they face no immediate risk of prosecution because Israel itself is not a member of the court.

The prosecutor also requested arrest warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas is already considered an international terrorist group by the West. Sinwar and Deif are believed to be hiding in Gaza. But Haniyeh, the Islamic militant group’s supreme leader, is based in Qatar and travels frequently to the region. Qatar, like Israel, is not a member of the ICC.

As Israeli leaders accepted the prosecutor’s decision, 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 statement Monday evening regarding the arrest 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 against the imperative of strict respect for international humanitarian law and in particular against the unacceptable nature of civilian losses in the Gaza Strip and the insufficient humanitarian access,” indicates the press release from France, which has a large Jewish community. and close trade and diplomatic relations with Israel.

The war between has begun on October 7, when Hamas-led militants entered Israel and killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostages. Khan accused Hamas leaders of crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder and sexual violence.

Israel responded with an offensive that killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between noncombatants and combatants in its count. The war triggered a humanitarian crisis that displaced much of the coastal enclave’s population and plunged parts of it into famine, which Israel used as a “method of warfare,” according to Khan.

Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib said in a post on social media platform

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders condemned the prosecutor’s decision as shameful and anti-Semitic. US President Joe Biden also castigated the prosecutor and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. The UK called the move “unnecessary”, saying the ICC has no jurisdiction in the case, while Israel’s ally the Czech Republic called Khan’s decision “appalling and completely unacceptable “.

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

Experts have warned that any arrest warrant could complicate relations between Israel and even its allies who have condemned the move.

Yuval Kaplinsky, a former senior Israeli Justice Ministry official, said countries party to the court would be forced to arrest Netanyahu or Gallant if they go there, although he said some of those countries could find legal loopholes that could help them avoid this.

“They would rather Netanyahu not visit than have him go to London and have the whole world watch him avoid extradition,” Kaplinsky said.

Since the start of the war, violence has also broke out in the occupied West Bank.

On Tuesday, an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp and the neighboring town of Jenin killed at least seven Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The army said its forces struck militants during the operation, while the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said its fighters fought Israeli forces.

However, according to Wissam Abu Baker, director of the Jenin Government Hospital, the medical center’s surgical 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, were frequent targets of Israeli raidslong before the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza broke out.

Since the start of the war, nearly 500 Palestinians have been killed in fighting in the West Bank, many of them militants, as well as others throwing stones or explosives at troops. Other people not involved in the clashes were also killed.

Israel says it is suppressing rising militancy in the territory, pointing to a surge in attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. He has arrested more than 3,000 Palestinians since the start of the Gaza war.

Israel conquered the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East War, as well as East Jerusalem, which it later annexed, and the Gaza Strip, from which it withdrew its troops and settlers in 2005. The Palestinians seek these territories as part of their future independent state, in the hope of achieving this. which have diminished since the start of the war in Gaza.


Associated Press journalists Majdi Mohammed in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, Jack Jeffery in Jerusalem, John Leicester in Paris and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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