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Italy, France on opposite sides on arrest issue

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ROME—Italy’s foreign minister said Tuesday it was “unacceptable” and “absurd” to compare Israel and Hamas after the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor applied for arrest warrants for leaders on both sides.

“It is completely unacceptable that Hamas and Israel are put on the same level—the leaders of the terrorist group that started the war in Gaza by massacring innocent citizens and the leaders of the government elected by the people of Israel,” Antonio Tajani said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The minister, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the G7 this year, described the parallel as “absurd”, adding: “In no way can one even imagine such an equivalence.

“Be careful not to legitimize anti-Israeli positions that can fuel anti-Semitic phenomena.”

But France said late Monday it supported the independence of the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for leaders from Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Islamist movement Hamas.

“France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and the fight against impunity in all situations,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry “condemned the anti-Semitic massacres perpetrated by Hamas” during the group’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which was “accompanied by acts of torture and sexual violence”.

It also said it had warned Israel “of the need for strict compliance with international humanitarian law, and in particular of the unacceptable level of civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip and inadequate humanitarian access”.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan said on Monday he had applied for arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes including “wilful killing”, “extermination and/or murder”, and “starvation” during the war in Gaza.

He said Israel had committed “crimes against humanity”, and accused it “of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population”.

Khan also said the leaders of Palestinian militant group Hamas, including Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, “bear criminal responsibility” for actions committed during the Oct. 7 attack.

These included “taking hostages”, “rape and other acts of sexual violence”, and “torture”, he said.

“International law and the laws of armed conflict apply to all,” Khan said. “No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader –- no one -– can act with impunity.”

Israel rejected the accusations as a “historical disgrace”, while Iran-backed Hamas said it “strongly condemns” the move.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, also rejected the ICC’s bid, with President Joe Biden denouncing it as “outrageous” and saying “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the ICC move “could jeopardize” efforts for a ceasefire in Gaza.

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