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'Obsessed' Netanyahu constantly updated on Israel's operations against ICC

Israeli intelligence hacked and surveilled court prosecutor Karim Khan giving forewarning of arrest warrant plans
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan speaks at a press conference in Bogota, on 25 April (AFP/Luis Acosta)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received advanced knowledge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor's plans for him as a result of surveillance and hacking carried out by his intelligence agencies.

According to a joint report by the Guardian and +972Mag, Israel has carried out an almost decade-long campaign of surveillance against the Hague-based court, as well as hacking, smearing, and allegedly threatening both current chief prosecutor Karim Khan and his predecessor Fatou Bensouda.

One intelligence source said that Netanyahu was “obsessed” with intercepts acquired by the intelligence agencies from the court.

Sources said the operations against the ICC were carried out by the Shin Bet, as well as the military’s intelligence directorate, Aman, and cyber-intelligence division, Unit 8200.

Information gleaned was distributed to the Israeli ministries of justice, foreign affairs, and strategic affairs.

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Khan hinted at the pressure being applied on him by the Israelis when he announced he was seeking prosecutions for Netanyahu, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, and several Hamas leaders.

“I insist that all attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence the officials of this court must cease immediately," he said at the time, adding that if there were any further attempts “my office will not hesitate to act".


One intercepted message revealed that Khan was under “tremendous pressure from the United States” not to attempt to prosecute Israelis, according to a source familiar with its contents.

An earlier report by the Guardian and +972Mag on Tuesday revealed Yossi Cohen, who at the time was director of the Israeli spy agency, helmed an operation to pressure Bensouda into abandoning an inquiry into Israel.

'You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family'

- Former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen to former ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda

In the years leading up to Bensouda's decision to open the inquiry in 2021, Cohen allegedly deployed “despicable tactics”, according to accounts by ICC officials who likened his behaviour to “stalking”.

According to one account, Cohen told Bensouda: “You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family.”

Mossad also closely observed Bensouda’s family, obtaining transcripts of secret recordings of her husband in a bid to use them to discredit her, two sources allege.

Bensouda’s investigation concluded in last week’s announcement by the current chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, that he was seeking arrest warrants for senior Israeli leaders over war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

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Alongside Gallant and Netanyahu, the Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, its military wing's commander-in-chief Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, better known as Mohammed Deif, and its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, were named in the statement.

Gallant and Netanyahu face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges over the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare; wilfully causing great suffering; wilful killing; intentional attacks on a civilian population and extermination, alongside several other charges.

The Hamas leaders also face charges related to extermination, murder, the taking of hostages, sexual assault, and torture, alongside several more charges.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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