Fearing arrest, Netanyahu could avoid Europe stopover on way to US

By Anadolu Agency

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering avoiding a stopover in Europe on his way to the US over fears that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is readying to issue an arrest warrant against him over the Israeli army’s crimes in Gaza.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to the US and to deliver a speech before the US Congress on July 24. He is also expected to meet US President Joe Biden in the White House.

On May 20, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip. Khan also requested warrants for three of the Hamas group’s top leaders including its chief Ismail Haniyeh.

The Israeli public broadcaster KAN said Netanyahu’s office reviewed the matter of stopping in Europe on his way to Washington as his plane, known as Wing of Zion, is unable to make a transatlantic flight while carrying a full load of passengers.

His office reviewed the option of having a stopover in the Czech Republic or Hungary, as these two countries are considered friends to Israel, and called ICC arrest requests “unacceptable,” according to KAN.

It, however, noted that Netanyahu’s office in the end decided to go for a direct flight to Washington with a limited number of passengers on board.

While the US is not a member of the ICC, receiving Netanyahu despite an international arrest warrant could expose it to criticism.

Israel also is not a member of the court, whereas Palestine was accepted as a member in 2015.

The ICC, established in 2002, is an independent international body not affiliated with the United Nations or any other international institution, and its decisions are binding.

Israel, flouting a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire, has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Hamas.

Nearly 38,200 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly women and children, and over 87,900 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Nine months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lie in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered it to immediately halt its military operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.