US fears that the International Court will arrest Israeli officials for the war in Gaza

TO United States and its allies them worries that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials just as the country is nearing a ceasefire deal with Hamas, which could jeopardize the deal, people familiar with the matter said.

The concern is that Israel backs out of truce if ICC proceeds with orders, according to two of the people, who asked not to be identified because these are private deliberations. Group of Seven nations have begun a quiet diplomatic effort to convey that message to the Hague-based court, the people said.

The ICC is considering arrest warrants targeting both senior Israeli officials and Hamas leaders over the conduct of both sides in the war in Gaza, the people said. He New York Times previously reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be among those targeted.

Two of the people said the gap between Israel and Hamas over a deal to free the hostages had narrowed in recent weeks and was now close to a deal. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

“We have been very clear about the ICC investigation: We do not support it,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday. “We don’t believe they have jurisdiction.”

Possible arrest warrants have become a major concern for Israel and the country is talking to international partners about it, one person said. Another said Netanyahu had asked Biden for help in a conversation on Sunday to ensure the orders were not issued. Axios reported that request earlier Monday.

An ICC spokesman declined to comment.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the militant group's leaders to quickly reach a decision on Israeli conditions for a temporary ceasefire. Israel has been “extraordinarily generous” with proposals made during talks brokered by Qatar and Egypt to secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, Blinken said at a special World Economic Forum event in Riyadh on Monday.

“The eyes of the world should be on Hamas saying 'take this deal',” UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said at the meeting. “We are in a potentially better place than we have been for a while.”

He New York Times reported on Monday that Israel is willing to accept the release of 33 hostages, compared to at least 40, during the first phase of a new truce. Hamas has said it cannot free 40 female, elderly or sick captives as demanded in exchange for a six-week ceasefire because it does not have enough hostages in that category.

Group of Seven allies have been pressuring Israel to postpone an incursion into Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have taken refuge after it was named a “safe zone” by Israel itself. A deal could help end the fighting in Gaza and postpone the assault on the city, one of the people said.

On October 7, Hamas attacked Israel in surprise attacks, killing more than 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage. During Israel's retaliation attacks, more than 34 thousand Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The United States and other G-7 nations have repeatedly urged Netanyahu to do more to protect civilians in Gaza, while remaining staunch allies and arms suppliers.

The United States has never been part of the ICC, which began its work in 2002 as a “court of last resort” for victims of genocide, war crimes and other atrocities. President Joe Biden revoked sanctions imposed on the court during the Trump administration and has cooperated in some cases, especially around allegations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

The court's chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, said in February that he was deeply concerned about the conduct of Israeli forces as well as Hamas fighters holding Israeli hostages. “Those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my office takes action in accordance with its mandate,” he said at the time.

The ICC works separately from the International Court of Justice, the UN's main judicial body, which cannot try or punish individuals. That court ruled in January that Israel must act to prevent Palestinians from being killed or injured in response to a genocide case brought by South Africa.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Sunday instructed all his country's missions around the world to prepare for a wave of anti-Semitism, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel outbreaks, following reports of possible arrest warrants. He said issuing the orders would harm Israel's forces and “provide a morale boost to the terrorist organization Hamas and the Iranian-led axis of radical Islam that we are fighting.”