International Criminal Court Cancels Mission to Israel

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, abruptly canceled a planned fact-finding mission to Israel on the same day he announced he would issue arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Reuters reported.

Eight sources familiar with the proceedings confirmed to Reuters that the visit had been canceled. Khan had been planning his visit for months to gather evidence for a potential investigation into war crimes against Israel and Hamas in the war that began with the massacre committed by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023.

On May 20, the same day he canceled the visit, Khan announced that he was seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant, believing there was enough evidence even without the evidence-gathering mission. In addition to the Israeli leaders, Khan said he would seek arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders: Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

Khan told CNN that the charges against Sinwar, Haniyeh and al-Masri included “extermination, murder, hostage-taking, rape and sexual violence in custody.” Regarding Israeli officials, he said the charges included “extermination, incitement to starvation as a method of warfare, including denial of humanitarian aid, deliberate targeting of civilians in conflict.” The charge that Israel was using starvation as a method of warfare was based on reports of famine in Gaza, which were later proven to be either completely false or exaggerated, as per the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report from late June.

Khan’s announcement was criticized in Israel for equating Israeli leaders with leaders of the terrorist organization Hamas, for ignoring Israel’s strong judicial system, and for targeting a country over which the ICC should not have jurisdiction. The United States and Britain also criticized the decision for similar reasons. The ICC has yet to act on Khan’s request to issue arrest warrants, but perhaps the goal was to get the media to talk exactly the way Hamas wants. Either way, mission accomplished.