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Morning news brief

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 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 Herzi 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 and 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 flag" 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.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Protests against the war in Gaza on college campuses are continuing to spread across the country.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, another is expected in New Jersey at Rutgers University, where some students planned a rally this afternoon. Like protests at other campuses, they're demanding the university divest from companies that do business with Israel nearly seven months into this war that has destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure and killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, the majority women and children. That's according to the health authorities in Gaza. Israel's war is in response to an attack by Hamas that killed 1,200 people according to the Israeli government. Over the weekend, police arrested nearly 300 college students and activists during protests nationwide.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann was at Columbia University in New York City, and he joins us now. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So these demonstrations, really the beginning was at Columbia, where you were, but they've spread fast. Where are the flashpoints?

MANN: Yeah, this is really coast to coast now. Over the weekend - on Friday, we saw police move in to break up an encampment at Arizona State University. Saturday, dozens more students arrested at Washington University in St. Louis. And yesterday, at UCLA's campus in Los Angeles, pro-Palestinian activists scuffled with pro-Israeli demonstrators.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

MANN: Dozens of people were handcuffed and removed also from Virginia Tech's campus last night. Students and protesters around the U.S., Leila, now facing charges that range from trespassing to resisting arrest, some also facing disciplinary actions from their schools.

FADEL: Now, you described what's going on coast to coast and you were inside the encampment at Columbia University yesterday. What was the mood there?

MANN: Well, the mood here was really calm. I saw a lot of people singing and praying.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) Everybody say freedom to Palestine.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing) Freedom to Palestine.

MANN: And that mood, Leila, is a big change from a week and a half ago when campus officials summoned New York City police to break up the encampment, more than a hundred arrests then. And that, of course, helped spark the nationwide protest, as you mentioned. Both sides here are clearly working to de-escalate this. Columbia University president Minouche Shafik published a public letter saying they're going to let the encampment stay for now. She wrote that to bring back the NYPD at this time would be counterproductive.

FADEL: And what about the counter-protesters just outside the campus gates?

MANN: Yeah, some Jewish activists did gather here. And they told me they believe the students inside are motivated in part by antisemitism. We've been hearing a lot about this accusation. Here's Rhon Mizrachi. He's an Israeli American businessman. He was just outside the campus gates.

RHON MIZRACHI: It is antisemitic because what these people are actually calling from is from the river to the sea.

MANN: The meaning of that phrase is debated, but many Jews believe it calls for the destruction of Israel. Friday evening, the university announced it's banned one of the student protesters from campus. That student faced a school disciplinary hearing for a social media video posted earlier this year saying that Zionists - and I'm quoting here - "don't deserve to live." That student now says those remarks don't represent him or this protest movement.

FADEL: Now, you mentioned that the university and student protesters both appear to be working to de-escalate. The university has asked the protest leaders to make the encampment welcome to all. What did you see?

MANN: You know, I saw, Leila, signs welcoming Jewish students, signs celebrating Passover. I spoke to one Jewish student taking part in the protest who said she actually felt threatened by pro-Israel demonstrators and believes this accusation of antisemitism is being used to divert attention from Israel's military operation in Gaza and this call for divestment. She did not want her name used because of safety concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: I find it painful that antisemitism is being weaponized in order to keep Jewish people afraid and keep Jewish people, like, feeling alone and so defensive.

MANN: And so now, Leila, talks between students and campus officials are continuing, but no sign of a breakthrough here.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann in New York City. Thank you, Brian.

MANN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: In Spain, people were glued to their smartphones, televisions and radios this morning. They were waiting for Europe's most prominent socialist leader to announce a decision about his own and his country's future.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, last Wednesday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez published a letter where he made a surprise announcement. He was considering stepping down because of an investigation into his wife he said was politically motivated. Today, Sanchez said he would stay on.

FADEL: NPR's Miguel Macias has been following the story from Seville. Hi, Miguel.

MIGUEL MACIAS, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So what did Sanchez say after so much speculation over the past few days?

MACIAS: Leila, I think it's safe to say that it was a crazy morning for anyone watching. Pedro Sanchez went mute for five days after he published the letter on social media on Wednesday. This morning, he gave a long introduction. It took him more than five minutes to communicate his decision. Let's hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER PEDRO SANCHEZ: (Non-English language spoken).

MACIAS: Sanchez came out swinging. He talked about democracy and how important it is for those who are elected to office to fight against the attacks of those who question the legitimacy of the prime minister, for example. He said this is not a matter of ideology but a matter of respect, dignity. He also thanked his supporters for the incredible show of support over the past few days. The left, and not just members of Sanchez's party, the Socialists, but also other parties on the left have come together to practically beg Sanchez to not go.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MACIAS: That's sound from the more than 10,000 people that gathered at the Socialist headquarters on Saturday singing a very popular song, "Quedate" - or "Stay". In other words, if Sanchez was the undisputed leader of the left in Spain before, now he's demonstrated the power that he has with his base.

FADEL: But how did we get here? I mean, there was this investigation into Sanchez's wife that triggered all of this?

MACIAS: Yes, the investigation is basically the straw that broke the camel's back for him. Sanchez said in his letter on Wednesday that he and his wife have been targets of a campaign from the far right that amounts to harassment. The lawsuit that prompted the investigation into Sanchez's wife was filed by a far-right organization, based on news clips from media outlets, some of them known for publishing fake news. So it remains to be seen whether the investigation is going to go anywhere. Now, Sanchez is known to be a survivor, to have a very thick skin. It almost seemed that the opponents had found his weakness, the well-being of his wife. But today Sanchez told the world that he doesn't have any weaknesses.

FADEL: Now, you mentioned the corruption allegations come from Sanchez's political opponents. How are they responding?

MACIAS: Well, we can say something for sure. The right is going to go into full attack mode. Over the past five days, they've accused Sanchez of being irresponsible. They also didn't trust that he was being genuine. Well, conservatives are going to have a field day now. On the horizon we have something very interesting coming up, which is the Catalonia elections on May 12. The Socialists have a good chance to win. If they manage to block a coalition of the separatists, they could put an end to the current push for independence in Catalonia.

FADEL: That's Miguel Macias in Seville, Spain. Thank you for your time.

MACIAS: Thank you. 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.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.