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Israel compiles list of officials who could face arrest over ICC probe

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows the permanent premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. (Photo by Human Rights Watch)

Israeli authorities have compiled a top secret list of hundreds of military and intelligence officials, who could be arrested abroad if the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague opens an investigation into their war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The list thus far consists of between 200 to 300 people, some of whom are not aware of their inclusion, for abuses and war crimes committed in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem al-Quds, Haaretz newspaper reported on Thursday.

The list is secret as the Tel Aviv regime fears that the ICC could perceive the list of names as an official Israeli admission of the officials’ involvement in the incidents under investigation.

The roster includes some of Israel’s top officials, especially those involved in the 2014 military onslaught on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Among them would be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, minister of military affairs Benny Gantz, former minister of military affairs and current opposition MK Moshe Ya’alon, and the chief of the general staff of the Israeli army, Aviv Kohavi.

Former ministers of military affairs Avigdor Liberman and Naftali Bennett, along with former and current heads of the Shin Bet security service, Yoram Cohen and Nadav Argaman respectively, and some lower-ranking officers are also on the list.

A three-judge panel at the ICC is set to rule in the coming days or weeks on whether to approve a request by the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to launch an investigation into war crimes perpetrated in the occupied Palestinian land.

In early July 2014, Israel waged a war on the Gaza Strip. The 50-day military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. Over 11,100 others – including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people – were also wounded in the war.

Israel has long argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case.

In recent months, Israel has also encouraged the administration of US President Donald Trump to sanction the ICC in the hope that this would deter the court from the war crimes investigation. 

Last month, Trump announced sanctions against ICC officials investigating abuses by Americans and Israeli officials, stressing that court had no “jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and certain of its allies.”

“The ICC is already threatening Israel with an investigation of so-called war crimes committed by its forces and personnel in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a brief statement on June 11. 

“It’s clear the ICC is only putting Israel in its crosshairs for nakedly political purposes,” he added.

Israeli officials have long feared arrest for abuses while traveling to countries that have a legal remit to prosecute foreign war criminals.

Back in 2016, British police summoned former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni for questioning during a visit to the United Kingdom over the Tel Aviv regime’s war crimes during Israel's 2008-2009 war in Gaza.

Livni, however, managed to obtain emergency diplomatic immunity and avoided summons to be questioned.

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