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Gazans, Hamas see false equivalence in ICC charges

May 20, 2024 at 7:26 pm

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh holds a press conference during his visit to the Dar al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s, in Beirut on 22 June, 2022 [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

Gaza Strip residents criticised, on Monday, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s decision to seek the arrest of Hamas leaders, saying it falsely equated them with the Israeli leaders waging war in the Palestinian enclave since October, Reuters reports.

Prosecutor Karim Khan has applied for arrest warrants for Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, the commander of the group’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, and its Political Bureau chief, Ismail Haniyeh, as well as for Israel’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

“The world is unjust, they see with one eye. How come they equate between us and the Occupation?” said Um Samed, a mother of six who has been displaced by the war between different neighbourhoods of Gaza City.

“Did Hamas use planes to bomb Tel Aviv? Did they kill 35,000 people and still thousands more are missing? This is insane,” she told Reuters on a messaging app.

Another resident of Gaza City, 25-year-old Mohammad Farouq, said it was “a joke” that the ICC had requested a warrant against Deif, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

READ: Israel slams ICC arrest warrants against Netanyahu, Gallant for Gaza war crimes

“Let them arrest Netanyahu and Gallant, in their first of many trips abroad. And if they can come into Gaza to arrest Deif, who never leaves and is busy fighting the Occupation, let them do it,” he said.

The war in Gaza was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on Israel on 7 October in which some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

At least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to the enclave’s Health Ministry, in the conflict that has laid waste to the crowded coastal enclave and displaced most of its population of 2.3 million.

ICC Prosecutor, Khan, said he had grounds to believe that the five men bore “criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

‘Seven months too late’ 

When asked about the 7 October attack, Gazans say the causes of the current conflict go back much further, to the wars around Israel’s foundation, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in 1948.

The ICC Prosecutor’s move equated “the victim and the slaughterer”, said Sameeh, a 45-year-old accountant from Gaza City displaced with his family to Khan Yunis. “The injustice and massacres against the Palestinians didn’t start on 7 October, they started in 1948, and 7 October was a response to all the crimes conducted by the Occupation,” he said.

Senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters that the ICC decision “represents an encouragement to the Occupation to pursue the war of extermination”.

In a statement, the Palestinian group denounced the move against its leaders and said the requests against Netanyahu and Gallant had come seven months too late.

In Israel, politicians and members of the public reacted with an equal measure of outrage at Khan’s move, with some Israelis seeing a warrant issued against Netanyahu as an attack on the entire country.

On the Palestinian side, even those who might be critical of Hamas objected to the idea of putting them on a par with Israel.

Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which is a political rival to Hamas, said Israeli officials were pursuing crimes of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves,” he told Reuters from Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Another Gaza resident, Rabah Abuelias, 65, said people in the Territory had paid a heavy price for Hamas’s 7 October attack, but Israel was to blame for what followed and the ICC should have also targeted Israel’s Western backers.

“We criticise Hamas for maybe not reaching a ceasefire, so far, or for not being able to support the people with enough food and shelter, but we will never blame them for resisting the Occupation,” he said.

READ: Key facts about Israel Defence Minister Yoav Gallant