Let Justice in the Gaza War Take Its Course

In seeking the arrests of senior leaders of Israel and Hamas, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has given the world a promise of accountability.

Regardless of the outcome of the cases, the prosecutor’s request that the court issue arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar helps cut through the polarizing language of the moment and promotes the idea that the basic rules of international humanitarian law apply to all. Anyone demanding an end to the conflict in Gaza and the release of all hostages from the grasp of Hamas should embrace the decision.

The prosecutor, Karim Khan, has also brought accusations against Hamas’s Muhammad Deif and Ismail Haniyeh. Mr. Khan has charged the three Hamas leaders with crimes against humanity and war crimes arising out of the Oct. 7 attacks, and he emphasized that some of these crimes are being committed “to this day,” a reference to the hostages still being held by the group.

Mr. Khan is charging Israel’s most senior leadership, including Mr. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. While Mr. Khan recognized Israel’s “right to take action to defend its population,” he accused them of having “a common plan to use starvation as a weapon of war,” the targeting of civilians and other forms of collective punishment.

Crucially, the request recognizes compelling claims for justice on both sides of the conflict. Soon after Hamas’s attack on Israel, families of Israeli victims urged Mr. Khan to investigate Hamas for its actions, including forced disappearances, which is viewed by the court as a crime against humanity. “They simply want justice to be done,” a lawyer for some of the families said. Mr. Khan, after visiting the Rafah border crossing in late October, said of the hostage-taking, “When these types of acts take place, they cannot go uninvestigated, and they cannot go unpunished.”

The prosecutor also recognized demands on the Palestinian side. When Mr. Gallant announced a “complete siege” of Gaza days after the Oct. 7 attacks, a potentially grave violation of international law, the prosecutor had little choice but to set in motion an investigation that led to today’s action.

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