Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in front of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on May 20, 2024
Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in front of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem. AFP

The Australian government on Tuesday refused to comment on the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor's demand to prosecute Hamas leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes.

Upholding the "independent" role of the ICC, a foreign affairs spokesperson said it was not proper to comment on matters before the court, but added that Israel must comply with the international laws.

"Every country is bound by the same fundamental rules while defending itself," The Guardian quoted the spokesperson.

On Monday, British ICC prosecutor Karim Khan appealed to the world court's pre-trial chamber to issue arrest warrants against Netanyahu, his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh.

Israel has the right to defend its population but it did not "absolve Israel or any state of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law," Khan stated.

Netanyahu was quick to reject the claim "with disgust," disputing any comparison between the actions of Israel and those of Hamas, ABC News reported.

A three-judge panel is expected to review the evidence in about two months and determine whether to go forward with the proceedings. There is no possibility of prosecution since Israel is not a member of the ICC, but the Israeli officials may face arrest abroad once the warrant is issued.

The coalition has, however, slammed the Albanese government for not supporting US president Joe Biden, who had dismissed claims that Israel was committing genocide. Supporting Biden, Australia's opposition leader Peter Dutton said, "It was utterly repugnant to compare the Israeli prime minister to a terrorist organization leader. I very strongly support the comments of President Biden today in relation to the ICC, it's an abomination and it needs to be ceased."

But Labor cabinet minister Chris Bowen responded to the opposition's criticism as "highly irresponsible." Greens leader Adam Bandt has, meanwhile, urged the Labor government to support the ICC decision to issue warrants.