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International Criminal Court: Investigate These Israeli Suspects in War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity Probe

DAWN submits to ICC Prosecutor List of 40 Israeli Commanding Officers Executing and Planning Gaza Assault

(Washington D.C., December 20, 2023) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor should investigate as suspects for war crimes and crimes against humanity the senior Israeli commanders (“Prime Suspects: Who’s Running Israel’s War in Gaza”) identified by Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN).

DAWN submitted to ICC Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan KC the list of 40 Israeli military commanders who have taken part in, or who have direct command responsibility over operations that likely comprise indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilians, the use of starvation as a weapon, blocking humanitarian aid, and the imposition of the siege on Gaza. DAWN submitted this information in response to the Prosecutor’s November 17 call for parties to present to his office information relevant to its investigation team’s ongoing probe into violations of the Rome Statute in Palestine, including the current war in Gaza.

DAWN compiled the list, an organization chart of Israeli military actors active in Gaza, exclusively from official Israeli military publications that confirmed the presence of specific military units that have been either within the Gaza Strip between October 8, 2023 and November 13, 2023, or involved in imposing the siege on and shelling and bombing the strip in that time period. (One entry only was verified through a television interview with a commanding officer of the unit in question.) Each entry includes the name, rank, photo, and role of the commander of each of those units. The list includes officers from the rank of lieutenant-general and up who command units no smaller than battalion level forces. It covers nearly all branches of the Israeli military, as well as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the unit that administers the siege on Gaza.

“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,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director at DAWN. “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.”

DAWN released the first three Israeli military officials it has identified today, and will regularly release the identities of the remaining individual suspects over the course of the coming month on its X (Twitter) and Threads accounts, as well as on its website.

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, blocked the entry of humanitarian aid, and oversaw the indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza. “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,” and, “They will regret this moment, Gaza will never return to what it was.” “[C]ivilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” warned Cindy McCain, director of the UN’s World Food Program (WFP), on November 16, 2023.

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. 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.

The initial list also includes officers like Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Dvir Edri, the commander of the 460th Armored Brigade, which DAWN confirmed participated in combat operations in Northern Gaza on November 4, 2023. Between noon November 4 and noon November 5, according to data published by the UN, 243 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. Infantry, combat engineering, and armored forces like those under the command of Lt. Col. Edri have been documented attacking protected civilian sites such as hospitals, houses of worship, and schools. They have been involved in the forcible displacement of over 1 million Palestinians, the total siege of the northern Gaza Strip, which likely constitutes the crime of using starvation as a weapon, and hindering humanitarian aid — all war crimes.

“Israeli criminal law does not establish any type of ‘command responsibility’ for war crimes, which means Israeli courts never hold senior officers accountable — while it almost always absolves their subordinates of committing serious war crimes,” said Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, Director of Research for Israel-Palestine at DAWN. “Because Israel doesn’t even take the most basic step of investigating commanding officers, it cannot possibly argue the ICC is the wrong jurisdiction.”

The publication is not a comprehensive list of every Israeli military commander involved in the war. Nor does it provide conclusive evidence of each individual’s personal culpability. However, the list of identified Israeli officials serves as a repository of the prime Israeli suspects the ICC prosecutor should consider in its ongoing investigation into violations of the Rome Statute in this war, given their role in ordering and executing Israeli attacks in Gaza in the current conflict.

Israel is attempting to conceal the identities of many of its officers involved in the fighting by publishing only their first names and hiding their faces in many publicly available materials, whereas the IDF identified many of the same officers in publications just weeks and months earlier. While DAWN was able to compile this list entirely from official and open source channels, there is a very real risk that the information may no longer be accessible by the time the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) starts looking to identify suspects. This makes compiling and publishing this list critical to the success of any investigation.

“Israel has been publishing wanted posters for Hamas commanders suspected of involvement in the October 7 attacks. It has assassinated them, and it plans to hold public trials for them,” said Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, Director of Research for Israel-Palestine at DAWN. “Israeli victims will have access to justice — the same cannot be said of suspected Israeli war criminals and their Palestinian victims.”

The State of Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 2015. On March 3, 2021, the OTP launched an official investigation of all crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 13, 2014. The court’s Pre-Trial Chamber ruled that it has jurisdiction over the territory of the State of Palestine (the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem), as well as over nationals of the State of Palestine. This gives it jurisdiction over crimes Hamas militants committed on October 7 inside Israel. Israel is not a state party to the Rome Statute, but its nationals are subject to prosecution for crimes committed in the Palestine.

The ICC prosecutor has already indicated that he is investigating Hamas officials for the attacks of October 7, 2023, stating that the atrocities Hamas militants committed “cannot go uninvestigated and they cannot go unpunished. Because these types of crimes that we’ve all been watching, that we saw on the 7th of October, are serious violations, if proven, of international humanitarian law.” Israel is planning to put the hundreds of Hamas militants it has captured on trial for the crimes of the October 7 attacks.

“As a U.S.-based organization, we have a responsibility to seek accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by U.S.-backed, U.S.-protected military forces, and that’s why our focus is on crimes committed by Israeli soldiers with U.S. weapons in Gaza,” said Sarah Leah Whitson. “Our commitment to human rights and humanitarian laws means we prioritize addressing abuses that our own government is facilitating, in this case by Israeli forces.”

Israel has fired 140,000 munitions into Gaza in this war, “60 percent of them artillery rounds and 40 percent weapons dropped from aircraft,” according to data published by Newsweek. As of December 19, 2023, the United Nations reported that 19,453 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, 2023, 70 percent of whom it estimated were women and children. The UN estimates that as many as 1.9 of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people are internally displaced, warning that its shelters are housing an average of 12,400 people—more than four times their capacity. Nearly 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed in the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023, over 750 of whom were civilians. Hamas and other Palestinian groups also kidnapped an estimated 250 people from Israel, the majority of whom are believed to be civilians. Hamas has released over 100 hostages in a prisoner exchange deal with Israel and is believed to be holding more than 100 more. DAWN has previously called for the unconditional release of all civilian captives.

DAWN has sent several previous communications to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC concerning individual Israeli military officers and units. The submissions are dossiers compiling evidence of the individual’s involvement in crimes—under the Rome Statute of the ICC—pertinent to the prosecutor’s ongoing investigation. DAWN’s first submission, in 2022, detailed the direct complicity of IDF Legal Advisor for the West Bank Col. Eyal Toledano in the commission of numerous crimes under the Rome Statute, from the war crime of mass forcible displacement to the crime against humanity of apartheid. Other DAWN communications to the OTP provided evidence of direct complicity in Rome Statute crimes by the Netzah Yehuda battalion of the IDF, by an Israeli military court judge and by an IDF intelligence officer responsible for arbitrary detention of a US citizen.

If you have information on the identity of Israeli officers commanding battalion level units or officers holding the rank of lieutenant colonel or higher in the Gaza war or to provide information about suspected war criminals, email DAWN’s secure tipline (PGP key available here).