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ICC may issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials over the war in Gaza, reports say

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The International Criminal Court is reportedly considering arrest warrants against Hamas leaders and top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

If the court proceeds, it would likely send shockwaves around the region and beyond, as Israel's war against Hamas continues. Meantime, negotiators are still working on a potential cease-fire and hostage release deal.

FADEL: NPR's Peter Kenyon is following developments from Jerusalem and joins me now. Good morning, Peter.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So what do we know about these possible arrest warrants? Who might issue them, and what could ensue?

KENYON: Well, Israeli and international media are reporting that the ICC, the International Criminal Court, in The Hague could issue arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, and Army Chief Herzl Halevi. We should stress this hasn't happened yet, and if ICC prosecutor Karim Khan does issue warrants, something that's never happened to any Israeli official before, it could happen this week, but that's also not certain. Clearly, though, there's concern inside Israel about the possibility. Israeli officials in the U.S. are reportedly calling on Khan to hold off or decide against the warrants altogether. Also, Israeli and international officials told The New York Times they believe the ICC may also be looking into taking action against Hamas leaders.

FADEL: And if the ICC moves ahead, what would that mean?

KENYON: Well, for one thing, under the rules of the ICC, if warrants are issued, each member state would be expected to arrest and hand the defendants over to The Hague if they enter its territory. Warrants were issued against Russian leader Vladimir Putin last year, for instance, regarding his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children, raising the possibility of his arrest should he travel to certain countries.

FADEL: OK, and then in the meantime, is there any news on the hostages and the possibility of their release, hostages taken from Israel?

KENYON: Well, this, of course, is a very important and thorny issue. Negotiating teams are meeting today in Cairo for another round of talks. Egypt says it has a proposal ready to be discussed. The general idea is a cease-fire, during which hostages could be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. Israeli media quoted Hamas as saying generally positive things, but as always, it's complicated. Far-right Israeli ministers like the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, are threatening to bring down the coalition government if it, quote, "raises the white flagp" by scrapping a Rafah operation. Many will be watching to see how Netanyahu deals with that.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Israel Katz had said, if there is a deal, we will suspend the operation. So clearly, Netanyahu's government is not of one mind as to whether or how to proceed on this. And the release by Hamas a video showing two hostages still alive has only increased pressure from families to get their loved ones home. Meanwhile, Israeli strikes continue. Air strikes overnight and this morning killed at least 22 people, half of them women and children, one only 5 days old, according to Palestinian health officials.

FADEL: What's the latest on the efforts to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza as the risk of famine grows there?

KENYON: Efforts are continuing. World Central Kitchen is getting back into the game, resuming operations, despite the fact that seven of their workers were killed last time. This time, they will be using Palestinian aid workers. And the U.S. is constructing a pier. It's ongoing. It has come under attack. It's not clear when that will be ready.

FADEL: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Jerusalem. Thank you, Peter.

KENYON: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.