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Families of hostages visit international court to urge the arrest of Hamas leaders

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: Grieving mother Doris Liber said Wednesday she flew from Israel to the International Criminal Court in hopes of getting justice for her son Guy Illuz, who died in captivity after being shot in the back in the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel.
Liber, a native of New York who lives in Israel, was among 100 former hostages and families of hostages who visited the Netherlands along with lawyers who presented prosecutors with more than 1,000 pages of evidence and called for arrest warrants for Hamas leaders on charges including genocide.
“I do believe that if we don’t stop this kind of evil, it will expand and it will get to any place, to every place,” Liber told The Associated Press as she stood in a cold, windswept parking lot near the global court.
The visit was the latest step in efforts by Israelis to seek justice for victims of the attacks, in which about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and about 250 were taken hostage.
It came a day after officials said that negotiations between Israel and Hamas were making progress toward another ceasefire and hostage release deal, though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday threw doubt on any progress, saying that Hamas was sticking to “delusional” demands.
Shelly Aviv Yeini, a lawyer for the group that organized Wednesday’s visit, The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said the evidence includes details supporting “allegations of genocide, taking hostages, enforced disappearances, torture, gender-based violence and sexual violence. It’s a very detailed submission and I hope it can help the prosecutor in delivering justice.”
The families arrived in buses, many of them clutching photos of their loved ones and small bunches of tulips. Waiting were a few hundred supporters who braved rain and strong winds as they waved Israeli flags and chanted: “Bring them home, now!”
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is already investigating alleged crimes committed by both sides in the conflict. On Monday, he said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah.”
Khan said his probe “is being taken forward as a matter of the utmost urgency, with a view to bringing to justice those responsible” for crimes falling under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute.
He also called for “the immediate release of all hostages. This also represents an important focus of our investigations.”
Another member of the delegation in The Hague was Ofri Bibas, sister of the hostage Yarden Bibas who was kidnapped Oct. 7 along with his wife Shiri, and sons 4-year-old Ariel and baby Kfir.
Kfir Bibas is the youngest hostage held by Hamas, and was just 9 months old when he was kidnapped. Last month, his family members held several events to mark what they called “the saddest birthday in the world.”
“Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine: a mother, wrapping her children and herself in a blanket, trying to grasp them close to her body, she’s the only thing protecting these two children, who are terrified as guns are pointed at them,” Ofri Bibas said before leaving for The Hague.
Since video emerged shortly after the attack showing the red-headed brothers swaddled in a blanket around their petrified mother, the infant with the toothless smile has become a symbol across Israel for the helplessness and anger over the 134 hostages still in captivity in Gaza.
In The Hague, Liber said she does not know if she will ever see her 26-year-old son Guy’s body and now she is devoting herself to making sure that one of his close friends, who is still a hostage, is freed.
“I’m here for him. Because if there is anything that I know for sure, it’s that Guy would want me to do. So, I’m doing as hard as I can to bring him back,” she said.
The International Criminal Court seeks to bring individuals to justice, unlike the nearby International Court of Justice, or ICJ, that rules in disputes between nations.
The ICJ last month ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has laid waste to the Palestinian enclave.
South Africa, which brought the case against Israel at the ICJ, on Tuesday lodged an “urgent request” with the court to consider whether Israel’s military operations targeting the southern Gaza city of Rafah are a breach of the provisional orders the court handed down last month in a case alleging genocide.

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