US House passes Republican bill to sanction International Criminal Court over Israel

FILE PHOTO: A view of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court over its prosecutor's decision to seek arrest warrants for Israeli officials related to the war in Gaza.

The vote was 247 to 155, with 42 Democrats joining Republicans in backing the measure. There were no Republican "nay" votes, although two voted "present."

The measure is not expected to become law, but reflects continuing support for Israel in Congress amid international criticism over the Middle East country's campaign in the Gaza Strip.

The White House last month criticized the ICC's decision to seek the warrants.

The bill is not expected to be brought up for a vote in the Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Biden's fellow Democrats.

The legislation would impose sanctions on people involved in ICC prosecutions of Americans or citizens of U.S. allies that are not ICC members, including Israel.

It also would block such ICC officials' entry to the United States, revoke any U.S. visas and restrict them from U.S. property transactions.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said last month - after more than seven months of war in Gaza - that he had reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Netanyahu's defense chief and three Hamas leaders "bear criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Netanyahu said the ICC prosecutor's decision was absurd and that the move was meant to target all of Israel.

Israel launched an air and ground offensive in Gaza last October, vowing to destroy Hamas after militants attack southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 120 hostages remain in Gaza.

The Israeli military campaign has killed more than 36,000 people in densely populated Gaza, according to its health authorities, who say thousands more bodies are buried under rubble.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)