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Biden dismisses International Criminal Court’s call for arrests of Israeli, Hamas officials


Palestinian children walk amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the aftermath of an Israeli raid on Jenin camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 23, 2024.
Palestinian children walk amidst the rubble of damaged buildings in the aftermath of an Israeli raid on Jenin camp in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 23, 2024.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday dismissed calls by the International Criminal Court for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three top Hamas officials in Gaza, for alleged war crimes in connection with the ongoing seven-month conflict.

Biden, at a White House news conference, was asked whether the U.S. had any evidence that Israel was using starvation of Palestinians as a tool of war to fight Hamas militants, as the court alleged this week.

Biden did not answer directly but said, “We don’t recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC the way it’s being exercised, and it’s that simple.”

Referring to the conduct of the war, Biden, a long-time supporter of Israel, said, “We don’t think there's an equivalence between what Israel did and what Hamas did.”

The Israel-Hamas war started with the shock October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of about 250 hostages. Israel, in its subsequent counteroffensive in Gaza, has killed more than 35,700 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which includes civilians and combatants in its count, but says most of the dead are women and children.

CIA director Bill Burns is expected to travel to Europe soon to meet with the head of Israel’s Mossad and Qatar’s prime minister in an attempt to revive talks to release the hostages still held in Gaza and establish a cease-fire in the territory, according to media reports Thursday.

Negotiations for a cease-fire have languished for months. The ICJ announced Thursday it will deliver a decision Friday on an urgent request by South Africa to order a cease-fire in Gaza.

South Africa asked last week for the emergency measure in response to Israel’s offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza at the border with Egypt, where the United Nations had warned of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.

South Africa urged the top U.N. court to demand Israel fully withdraw from Gaza and allow U.N. officials, humanitarian organizations and journalists unimpeded access to the narrow territory along the Mediterranean Sea coastline.

The request is part of a larger case South Africa brought before the court accusing Israel of genocide.

Israel rejected the accusations, calling the South African case an “obscene exploitation” of the Genocide Convention.

Israeli officials say their campaign in Gaza is not aimed at civilians but at the Hamas militant group that attacked Israel in October.

On the battlefront, Israeli forces ended a two-day raid Thursday in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin that Palestinian health officials say killed at least 12 people and wounded 25 others.

Israel began the operation Tuesday and said it was battling militants in the area.

The Israel Defense Forces also reported carrying out ground fighting and airstrikes Thursday in Rafah, in central Gaza and in the Jabaliya area of northern Gaza.

Israeli forces killed at least 60 Palestinians in aerial and ground attacks across Gaza on Thursday, according to health officials and Hamas media, and also fought in close combat with Hamas-led militants in Rafah.

The main U.N. agency in Gaza estimated on Monday that more than 800,000 people had fled Rafah since Israel’s offensive on the city began earlier this month.

But Suze van Meegan, the emergency response leader for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Gaza, said many civilians were still stuck in the southern Gazan city.

"The city of Rafah is now comprised of three entirely different worlds: the east is an archetypal war zone, the middle is a ghost town, and the west is a congested mass of people living in deplorable conditions," she said in a statement.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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