Middle East Crisis: Israeli Forces Enter Hospital Complex in Southern Gaza

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Relatives of hostages being held in Gaza flew from Israel to The Hague on Wednesday on an emotional trip designed to draw attention to a complaint filed a day earlier against the leaders of Hamas at the International Criminal Court, accusing them of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, including hostage-taking, killings and acts of sexual violence.

The hostage families, numbering about 100 people and accompanied by two former hostages who were released in November, said they had come to try to make sure that justice would be done. The case is being led by the legal team of the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, an Israeli nongovernmental organization advocating for the release of the captives, and the Canada-based Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights.

“The goal of so many families coming here together is to give backup to the complaint,” said Amit Levy, 21, the brother of Naama Levy, 19, who was seen in a harrowing video soon after her abduction from Nahal Oz being dragged by her hair from the back of a jeep in Gaza, her sweatpants bloodied.

“Those responsible must pay some kind of price,” Mr. Levy said.

After arriving in the Hague, the families appeared at a rally in support of their cause in a square near the court, holding up portraits of the captives, as hundreds of supporters stood under umbrellas in the driving rain, waving Israeli flags and chanting, “Bring them home now!”

“It is heartwarming to see,” said Moshe Or, 33, whose brother, Avinatan Or, 31, was kidnapped along with his partner, Noa Argamani, as they tried to flee from the Nova music festival.

“It’s important to use the international tools that are more often used against Israel,” he added, of the effort to seek international justice.

More than 250 people were abducted to Gaza during the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, mostly from border communities, army bases, and an outdoor music festival. About half remain in captivity, though Israel has confirmed that at least 31 are dead.

The Israeli government does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and is not a signatory to its founding treaty. But unlike the International Court of Justice, the top U.N. court where South Africa has filed a case accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, the International Criminal Court allows people to bring cases against individuals suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, must now evaluate the evidence submitted to the court, based on the testimony of about 100 witnesses, according to Dana Pugach, a member of the hostage forum’s legal team. Some witnesses are expected to testify in person at The Hague.

The prosecutor will then decide whether to press charges against the accused Hamas leaders, who have not been publicly named by the legal team, and whether to issue arrest warrants.

“We came to sue Hamas,” said Shani Yerushalmi, 25, who was traveling with her sister May, 21. Their sister Eden, 24, was kidnapped from the music festival and remains in Gaza.

The sisters, who in recent months have gone with hostage family delegations to Paris and Washington, said they hoped their action would put pressure on Hamas and have some influence on world opinion. Their mother mostly stays home surrounded by friends, they said, and their father prays much of the time while they “do the journeys.”

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