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Albanese ducks questions over Israel war crime warrant

Netanyahu's angry response

Source: Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has ducked questions over a push to arrest Israel’s prime minister over alleged war crimes in Gaza, as other world leaders strongly condemned the action.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants for Benjamin Netanyahu, his defence minister and three Hamas leaders over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, Albanese refused to weigh in despite US President Joe Biden calling the ICC’s move “outrageous” and declaring: “What’s happening in Gaza is not genocide. We reject that.”

The Australian Prime Minister said he did not comment on court processes at home or abroad.

“I call for the release of hostages. We’ve called for a humanitarian ceasefire. We’ve called for increased humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“We have said that every life matters, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian, and we’ve called for progress towards a two-state solution. That is where we are concentrating it.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused Albanese of sitting on the sidelines and said the PM had “squibbed it” by not standing with Biden.

Dutton said Albanese was “tarnishing and damaging our international relationships with like-minded nations”.

“I very strongly support the comments of Joe Biden today in relation to the ICC,” Dutton said.

“This action is antisemitic and it’s against the interests of peace in the Middle East.”

Germany said the application for the arrest warrants against Israeli and Hamas leaders gave a “false impression of equivalence” between sworn enemies.

But former ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo rejected such an equation.

“The prosecutor is not saying they’re equal, they’re saying both are suspects,” he told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

The simultaneous charging was also part of a prosecutor’s job to show impartiality, he said.

Alleged crimes Netanyahu is accused of include using starvation of civilians as a method of war, wilfully causing great suffering, persecution and intentionally directing attacks against civilians.

The Hamas leaders are alleged to be behind torture, cruel treatment, murder, rape and acts of sexual violence and taking hostages.

Australian Muslims and Jews respond

The application for the warrants was welcomed by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and Australian Muslim Advocacy Network, which also called for sanctions.

The prosecutor’s statement was “legally misconceived and morally indefensible” that Israeli leaders were being targeted alongside leaders of a prescribed terrorist group, Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said.

Australian Jewish Association CEO Robert Gregory called for sanctions against the prosecutor and those who assisted him.

Opposition spokesman Simon Birmingham said the decision also jumped the gun ahead of domestic legal proceedings or internal investigations by Israel.

“Israel is a democracy with its own robust legal system,” he said.

Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7 that killed 1200 people and led to more than 200 being taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel launched a ground offensive and bombing campaign in Gaza that has killed 35,000 people and injured about 77,000 more, according to its health ministry.

Not genocide: Biden

Biden strongly defended Israel, saying Israeli forces were not committing genocide in their military campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza in a rejection of criticism from pro-Palestinian protesters.

Biden has faced protests at many of his events around the country from pro-Palestinian advocates who have labelled him “Genocide Joe” for his steadfast support for Israel.

Biden stressed his belief that Israel was the victim dating back to the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants who killed 1200 people and took hundreds of hostages.

He said US support for the safety and security of Israelis is “ironclad”.

“We stand with Israel to take out (Hamas leader Yahya) Sinwar and the rest of the butchers of Hamas. We want Hamas defeated. We’re working with Israel to make that happen,” he said.

Negotiations have stalled between Israel and Hamas in trying to gain the freedom of sick, elderly and wounded hostages still held by the militants, but Biden vowed not to give up trying to gain their release.

“We’re going to get them home. We’re going to get ’em home, come hell or high water,” the president said.

Biden has also called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, something that he reiterated in his commencement speech at Morehouse College on Sunday.

Biden also rejected the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor for saying he had requested arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defence chief over alleged war crimes.

The ICC prosecutor on Monday also said he requested arrest warrants for Hamas chief Sinwar and two other Hamas leaders.

Biden in recent months has faced growing political pressure from his own party over his handling of the Gaza conflict, as the Palestinian death toll climbed to more than 35,000 people, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and Israel’s siege has created dire humanitarian conditions in the territory.

-with AAP

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