Close adviser of Syrian president dies after car crash: Presidency

THE HAGUE/WASHINGTON: On May 20, the same day, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan made a surprise request for arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders involved in the Gaza conflict. eight people with direct knowledge of the case told Reuters.
Four sources said the visit had been planned for months with US officials.
Khan’s decision to seek warrants overturned plans backed by Washington and London for the prosecutor and his team to visit Gaza and Israel. The court was set to gather on-the-spot evidence of war crimes and offer Israeli leaders the first opportunity to present their position and actions on war crimes charges, five sources with direct knowledge of the exchanges told Reuters.
Khan’s request for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the court’s first attempt to arrest a sitting Western-backed head of state – also defied efforts by the United States and Britain to prevent the court from indicting Israeli leaders. the sources said.
The two states said the court had no jurisdiction over Israel and that seeking arrest warrants would not help resolve the conflict.
Khan’s office told Reuters that the decision to seek an arrest warrant was consistent with his approach in all cases, based on the prosecutor’s assessment that there was enough evidence to proceed and the belief that seeking an immediate arrest warrant could prevent ongoing crimes.
Reuters is the first to report in detail about the planned trip and the consequences of its cancellation.
Khan has been working for three years to improve relations with the United States, which is not a member of the court. He asked Washington to help pressure its ally Israel, which is also not a member of the court, to allow his team access, four of the sources said.
His move hurt operational cooperation with the United States and angered Britain, one of the court’s founding members, the sources said.
A senior US State Department official said Washington was continuing to cooperate with the court in the Ukraine and Sudan investigations, but three sources with direct knowledge of the US administration’s dealings with the court said Reuters’ cooperation had been damaged by Khan’s sudden appearance. performance.
They said there were problems in preparations for the new indictment of suspects in Darfur, Sudan, and the capture of fugitives. Two of the sources said the operation to detain a suspect, who declined to be detailed, had not gone as planned due to the loss of key US support. All sources expressed concern that Khan’s move would jeopardize cooperation in other ongoing investigations.
But Khan’s sudden move has also drawn support from other countries, exposing political disagreements between national powers over the conflict and the court. France, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland issued statements supporting Khan’s decision; Canada and Germany have stated more simply that they respect the independence of the court.
The world war crimes court to prosecute individuals, the ICC has no police power to arrest suspects, so it relies on 124 countries that have ratified the founding 1998 Treaty of Rome. Non-member China, Russia, the United States and Israel occasionally cooperate with the court on an ad hoc basis.
A few hours ahead
According to two sources, Khan personally decided to cancel his visit to the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, which was scheduled to begin on May 27.
The court and Israeli officials met in Jerusalem on May 20 to work out the final details of the mission. Instead, Khan sought arrest warrants that day for Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders – Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.
A UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that there were initial discussions about Khan’s visit to Gaza, security and transportation.
Flights and meetings between the high court and Israeli officials were canceled with just hours’ notice, blindsides some of Khan’s own staff, seven sources with direct and indirect knowledge of the decision said.
A U.S. State Department official said the cancellation of the May visit broke with the prosecutor’s office’s general practice of seeking contact with states under investigation. Three U.S. sources said, without giving details, that Khan’s motive for the change in direction was not clearly explained and that the rumor damaged the Washington court’s credibility.
Khan’s office did not directly address the issues, but said it had spent the previous three years trying to improve dialogue with Israel and had received no information showing “real action” from Israel to address the alleged crimes.
Khan “continues to welcome the opportunity to visit Gaza” and “remains open to engaging with all relevant actors,” he said in an email.
Senior Hamas official Basem Naim told Reuters that Hamas had no prior knowledge of Khan’s intention to send an investigative team to Gaza.
Netanyahu’s office and the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
The Gaza war erupted after Hamas-led militants invaded southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostages. Nearly 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s ground and air campaign, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
Washington was blinded
The ICC recognized the “State of Palestine” in 2015, and Khan claims his office has jurisdiction over alleged atrocities committed by Palestinians in Israel and the Gaza Strip since October 7. Neither the United States nor Great Britain recognize the Palestinian state, so they dispute the court’s jurisdiction over the territory.
Despite Washington and London arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction in the situation, they have spoken to Israel to help Prosecutor Khan arrange the visit, four sources close to their governments told Reuters.
The sources said they were aware that Khan might seek warrants against Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials: Khan or members of his team had been informing the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China since at least March about the indictment of Israeli and Hamas leaders opportunity.
A diplomatic source in a Western country said, without giving details, that under-the-radar diplomatic efforts were being made to try to convince the ICC not to go down that path.
“We’ve worked hard to build a relationship that doesn’t cause surprises,” said one American source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
On 21 May, Blinken called Khan’s decision “deeply flawed”, saying it was not in line with the process he expected and would make it difficult to reach an agreement on the release of the hostages or a ceasefire. He told the Senate Appropriations Committee that he would work with Republicans on sanctions against ICC officials.
That same day, Cameron told parliament that Kahn’s move was wrong.
In private, he reacted angrily to the change of plan, calling it “madness” because Khan’s team had not yet visited Israel and Gaza, and in a telephone conversation with Khan he threatened to withdraw Britain from the court and cut funding. three sources with direct knowledge of the dispute said. A Foreign Office official declined to comment on the phone call or Britain’s relationship with the court.
In June, the ICC allowed the UK to file a written submission outlining its legal arguments that the ICC lacked jurisdiction over the case. The question of the court’s jurisdiction divides both members and non-members of the court.
The United States has a rocky relationship with the court. In 2020, under former US President Donald Trump, Washington imposed sanctions against it, which were introduced by President Joe Biden.
Khan’s office said it had made “significant efforts in recent years to work with the United States to strengthen cooperation and is grateful for the concrete and important assistance provided by the American authorities.”

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