Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant surrounded by IDF troops

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center, in black) meets with Israeli troops on December 12, 2023.

(Photo: Yoav Gallant/Facebook)

ICC Given Names of 40 Israeli Commanders to Investigate for War Crimes

"These 40 IDF commanders who have been responsible for planning, ordering, and executing Israel's indiscriminate bombardment, wanton destruction, and mass killing of civilians in Gaza should be prime suspects in any ICC investigation."

As the Palestinian death toll from Israel's obliteration of Gaza topped 20,000—mostly women and children—a U.S.-based advocacy group on Tuesday published a list of 40 Israeli military commanders it says are "prime suspects" for international war crimes investigation.

Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), founded by Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his 2018 assassination, said it submitted a dossier on "the officers and commanders responsible for executing Israel's war in Gaza" to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"These 40 IDF commanders who have been responsible for planning, ordering, and executing Israel's indiscriminate bombardment, wanton destruction, and mass killing of civilians in Gaza should be prime suspects in any ICC investigation," DAWN executive director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement. "While Israel has done its best to conceal the identities of many of its officers, they should be put on notice that they face individual criminal liability for the crimes underway in Gaza."

Although Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the court's jurisdiction includes Palestine, subjecting anyone who commits war crimes there to prosecution.

DAWN's list includes only Israeli officers "from the rank of lieutenant-general and up who command units no smaller than battalion level forces."

According to DAWN:

At the top of the list of suspects is Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. On October 9, 2023, Gallant ordered a complete siege on Gaza City, cut off the supply of potable water to the entire population of the Gaza Strip—over 2 million people—and blocked the entry of humanitarian aid. "We are fighting human animals and we'll act accordingly," the defense minister said, explaining the decision. One day later, he told Israeli troops on the Gaza border: "I have released all the restraints... Gaza will never return to what it was."

Also included is the head of COGAT (the Israeli military's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian. Maj. Gen. Alian is responsible for administering the siege of Gaza, and was responsible for cutting off the supply of water, food, and fuel in the early days of the war. On October 10, 2023, Alian said in an Arabic-language video message to the civilian population of Gaza that Israel was imposing a total blockade, "no electricity, no water, just damage," adding a chilling warning, "You wanted hell, you will get hell."

"Intentionally depriving civilians of basic necessities, including by blocking or even impeding the provision of humanitarian relief supplies, is a war crime under the Rome Statute of the ICC," DAWN noted. "Intentionally targeting medical facilities, ambulances, places of worship, places of culture, and most seriously the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, are crimes in the Rome Statute."

DAWN's list comes as South Africa has reportedly submitted documentation to the ICC in pursuit of war crimes charges against Israel. Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, and Djibouti have also asked the tribunal to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza.

Nongovernmental actors including the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera have also requested ICC probes of Israeli—and, in the case of RSF, Hamas—killings of journalists.

Karim Khan, the ICC chief prosecutor, has come under fire by Palestine defenders, who say he has shown little interest in investigating Israel's policies and practices in Gaza and beyond.

After visiting Gaza in late October, Khan noted the ICC's ongoing Palestine investigation that goes back to 2014 and highlighted an online portal to which anyone can submit information on alleged war crimes.

The Palestine Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Committee last month accused Khan of being a "genocide enabler" for his "failure to prosecute Israeli war criminals."

The ICC has long been accused of almost exclusively targeting African and non-Western individuals who commit war crimes.

While no longer with the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the court's first-ever chief prosecutor, said last month that both Israel and Hamas—whose fighters led the October 7 attacks that killed more than 1,100 Israelis and others—have committed war crimes including genocide during the war.

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