newsIsrael at War

‘I am going to The Hague to speak for those who no longer can’

Families of captives in Gaza fly to The Hague to charge Hamas with kidnapping, sexual violence.

Families of captives in Gaza stand by the chartered plane that will take them to The Hague, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Feb. 14, 2024. Photo by Nathalie Hamou.
Families of captives in Gaza stand by the chartered plane that will take them to The Hague, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Feb. 14, 2024. Photo by Nathalie Hamou.

One hundred representatives of families of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza left for The Hague on Wednesday morning to submit a comprehensive complaint to the International Criminal Court on behalf of the victims of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist invasion. 

“Two children, one infant and his toddler brother, still innocent of the world’s evils, along with their parents, are held captive by a terror organization whose members have killed, blinded and committed unspeakable acts,” Ofri Bibas told the press ahead of departure.

Ofri Bibas, sister of hostage Yarden Bibas, speaks to reporters at Ben-Gurion Airport, Feb. 14, 2024. Photo by Nathalie Hamou.

Ofri is the sister of Yarden Bibas, who was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir-Oz and is being held along with his wife, Shiri, and sons Kfir, 1, and Ariel 4, in Gaza.

“Today we are making history by coming to The Hague, to the ICC, a crucial step in our fight as citizens of the state and of the world to declare: ‘No more! Such crimes cannot be the legacy of humanity,’” Ofir said.

The charges were detailed in a statement by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum and include kidnapping, sexual violence and torture. 

“We submitted this brief to support the investigation led by International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan, hoping that he will ask the pre-trial chamber to issue arrest warrants against Hamas perpetrators,” attorney Yuval Sasson from the Meitar law firm representing the Hostage Families Forum, told JNS. 

“It is historic for Israelis to seek justice through the ICC with such substantive magnitude,” said Sasson, who filed the submission in conjunction with Dr. Shelly Aviv Yeini, head of the international law team at the Hostage Families Forum, and members of the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

Ella Ben Ami, whose father, Ohad, is captive in Gaza, embraces another passenger at Ben-Gurion Airport, Feb. 14, 2024. Photo by Nathalie Hamou.

Calculated cruelty

In December, Khan traveled to Israel, where he described Hamas’s slaughter of some 1,200 people on Oct. 7 as “some of the most serious international crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.

“In both Kibbutz Be’eri and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as at the site of the Nova Music Festival in Re’im, I witnessed scenes of calculated cruelty,” wrote Khan, who vowed to work in partnership with victims’ families “to hold those responsible to account.”

A probe launched by the ICC in 2021 into crimes allegedly perpetrated by Israel in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem could include Hamas’s Oct. 7 crimes.

“I am going to The Hague to speak for those who no longer can, who were murdered, so they are not forgotten,” Yael Adar, the mother of 38-year-old Tamir Adar, who was abducted by Hamas and declared dead in captivity, told JNS.

“According to international law, the bodies of the deceased should not be included in hostage negotiations. As such, they need to be returned to us immediately,” she added.

Tamir Adar, 38, lived in Kibbutz Nir-Oz with his wife and two children. On Oct. 7, he woke up to the sound of rocket sirens and entered his safe room with his family. About half an hour later, Tamir realized that terrorists had infiltrated the community and he left to fend off the attack.

He was wounded, kidnapped into Gaza and confirmed dead 90 days later.

On Tuesday, an Israeli delegation was in Cairo carrying a new draft of the terms of a hostage deal Jerusalem is willing to accept.

Led by Mossad head David Barnea, the Israelis sat down with American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators in an attempt to secure the release of the remaining 134 hostages.

A day earlier at the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said alongside Jordanian King Abdullah II that a proposal under discussion would include six weeks of an “immediate and sustained period of calm” in Gaza, which could then lead to “something more enduring.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week rejected the “delusional demands” made by Hamas as part of its official response to a deal framework proposed by mediators, emphasizing that bowing to the terrorist organization would lead to another massacre and constitute a “major disaster” that no Israeli citizen could accept.

The Hostage and Missing Families Forum applied pressure on the Israeli delegation to reach an agreement.

“Don’t come back until everyone is back—the living and the dead. The eyes of 134 families are on you. This is a once-in-a-lifetime mission,” the group said in comments directed at Barnea.

Yael Adar said she went to The Hague to make clear that Hamas is violating international law.

“Someone needs to fight for us. I wanted my son back alive but can no longer have that. I want to bury him according to the Jewish tradition,” she said.

“Tamir was young, energetic. He loved working the land and was a dedicated father,” she continued. “His children heard gunshots and saw all the destruction in the kibbutz. They are left without a father. We told them that their dad is dead but there is no funeral, no mourning process,” added Yael.

On Oct. 7, Hamas also abducted Tamir’s mother-in-law, Yaffa Adar. She was freed along with 109 others as part of a weeklong ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in late November.

“I want the world to know that our story, our nightmare, is not over. It does not end because the person is dead. It is absurd to put a price on bodies,” said Yael.

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