Top ICC prosecutor says claim he is equating Israel to Hamas is ‘nonsense’

Karim Khan tells The Sunday Times that Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens, but not to ‘commit war crimes or crimes against humanity’

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan looks on during an interview with AFP at the Cour d'Honneur of the Palais Royal in Paris on February 7, 2024. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan looks on during an interview with AFP at the Cour d'Honneur of the Palais Royal in Paris on February 7, 2024. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

In his first major interview since he announced that he would seek arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan dismissed as “nonsense” accusations that he was equating the actions of Israel and the terror group.

“I am not saying that Israel with its democracy and its Supreme Court is akin to Hamas, of course not. I couldn’t be clearer, Israel has every right to protect its population and to get the hostages back. But nobody has a license to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. The means define us,” Khan told the UK’s The Sunday Times.

Khan said that when an Israeli official asked him how they were supposed to locate the hostages, he gave the example of Britain and the IRA (Irish Republican Army), amid the battles over Northern Ireland.

“There were attempts to kill Margaret Thatcher, Airey Neave was blown up, Lord Mountbatten was blown up, there was the Enniskillen attack, we had kneecappings… But the British didn’t decide to say, ‘Well, on the Falls Road [the heart of Catholic Belfast] there undoubtedly may be some IRA members and Republican sympathizers, so therefore let’s drop a 2,000 pound bomb on the Falls Road.’ You can’t do that,” Khan said.

The British news outlet reported that Khan carries with him a blue wristband printed with “Bring Them Home,” calling for the return of the hostages kidnapped from Israel, along with a dog tag dedicated to the youngest hostage, Kfir Bibas.

“This would break anyone’s heart,” he said. “Kfir was just nine months old [when he was kidnapped]. But there’s no monopoly on suffering. There are Palestinian babies dying and we cannot have double standards.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Maj. Gen. Avi Gil during the hostage rescue in southern Gaza’s Rafah, February 12, 2024 (Shin Bet)

Khan further said that if his request for the arrest warrants is approved by the court, the world has a responsibility to enforce them.

“If states don’t step up, it has massive implications,” Khan says. “The ICC is their child — I am just the nanny or hired help. They have a choice to look after this child or be responsible for its abandonment.”

Khan requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Gallant on charges of “causing extermination and/or murder, deliberately targeting civilians in conflict and using starvation as a weapon of war, including the denial of humanitarian relief supplies.”

The prosecutor told the Sunday Times that the charges are based on the “number of bakeries targeted” by IDF troops in Gaza, “the fact that water was turned off, water purification tablets not allowed in, desalination plants not allowed membranes, wells targeted, the fact that people queuing for food [were] targeted, that people from aid agencies have been killed.”

The IDF maintains that it only attacks targets that have suspected ties to terror operations, although it has admitted to battlefield errors, including the killing of seven aid workers in a World Central Kitchen convoy last month.

A study published on Friday found that between January and April of this year, Israel was letting more than enough food into Gaza for the population’s needs. The study also found that only 54 percent of the pallets transferred into Gaza were dispatched by UN and humanitarian agencies operating in the territory, which could support Israel’s claim that it was allowing plenty of aid into Gaza but that Hamas was commandeering it as soon as it arrived.

Khan said that he did not understand why “everyone was so shocked” by his announcement last week on his request for arrest warrants.

“I’ve been saying continuously since October 7, ‘Comply now, don’t complain later,’” he said. “So I don’t know why anyone is surprised.”

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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