What charges will the October 7 terrorists face and how will they be tried?

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 23, 2023
Updated 2023/11/23 at 10:14 PM

Following the brutal massacres on October 7 perpetrated by Hamas and the subsequent IDF operations to reclaim Israeli communities seized by the terrorist group, Israeli security forces apprehended several dozen of the approximately 3,000 terrorists involved in the heinous acts.

These terrorists were responsible for the slaughter of 1,200 individuals, primarily civilians, including infants, children, and the elderly. Additionally, they engaged in torture, rape, and other serious crimes. On October 17, Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry reported that Israel was holding 118 “unlawful combatants” from Gaza, referring to the Hamas terrorists captured on and after October 7. However, more recent figures have not been released.

In the ensuing weeks, law enforcement authorities have been grappling with the challenge of how to prosecute the terrorists responsible for these atrocities. While the State Attorney’s Office and the Justice Ministry have not provided detailed information, some estimations can be made regarding the potential nature of the trials if Israel decides to prosecute these terrorists.

Following the brutal October 7 massacres by Hamas and the IDF’s efforts to reclaim Israeli territories from the terrorist group, Israeli security forces apprehended dozens of the 3,000 terrorists involved. These individuals were responsible for the massacre of 1,200 Israelis, predominantly civilians, including infants, children, and the elderly. Acts of torture, rape, and other severe crimes were also committed by these terrorists.

On October 17, Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry stated that Israel was holding 118 “unlawful combatants” from Gaza, referring to the Hamas terrorists captured on and after October 7. However, more recent figures have not been released.

In the subsequent weeks, law enforcement authorities have grappled with how to prosecute these terrorists. The State Attorney’s Office and the Justice Ministry have remained tight-lipped, but estimations can be made regarding the potential trials.

Given that the atrocities occurred on sovereign Israeli territory and the perpetrators are held there, they are likely to be tried in a regular court. The Beersheba District Court, with jurisdiction over the Gaza border region and the southern towns affected by the October 7 massacres, could be the relevant court.

Alternatively, the option of trying them under military law exists, where the prosecution could seek the death penalty for charges of murder. However, using military courts might raise concerns about the international legitimacy of the legal process, according to Prof. Barak Medina of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law.

Another possibility is holding the terrorists in detention indefinitely under the law for illegal combatants, facilitating potential release in exchange for hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. However, this could lead to legal challenges and provoke a political outcry.

If tried in the regular court system, the terrorists could face charges under various crimes outlined in Israel’s legal framework, including the Law for Preventing and Punishing Genocide, 1950. This law, based on the UN’s Genocide Convention, stipulates that anyone convicted of intentional “total or partial genocide” against a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group could be sentenced to death.


In the aftermath of the brutal October 7 attacks by Hamas and amid the IDF’s efforts to reclaim Israeli territories from the terrorist group’s control, Israeli security forces apprehended several dozen of the 3,000 terrorists involved in the atrocities. These individuals were responsible for the massacre of 1,200 Israelis, predominantly civilians, including infants, children, and the elderly, engaging in acts of torture, rape, and other severe crimes.

Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry disclosed on October 17 that Israel held approximately 118 “unlawful combatants” from Gaza, referring to the Hamas terrorists captured on and after October 7, though recent figures are unavailable.

In the subsequent weeks, law enforcement authorities have grappled with how to prosecute these terrorists. The State Attorney’s Office and the Justice Ministry have been reserved on the matter, but estimations can be made regarding potential trial scenarios.

Given that the atrocities occurred on Israeli soil and the perpetrators are held there, a regular court trial is likely. The Beersheba District Court, with jurisdiction over the Gaza border region and southern towns affected by the October 7 massacres, is a possible venue.

Alternatively, military law could be applied, allowing the prosecution to seek the death penalty for murder charges. Prof. Barak Medina highlights that using military courts might raise concerns about the international legitimacy of the legal process.

Detaining the terrorists indefinitely under the law for illegal combatants could facilitate potential exchanges for hostages held by Hamas. However, this approach could lead to legal issues and a political outcry if murderers were released.

Concerning genocide charges, Israel’s Law for Preventing and Punishing Genocide, 1950, based on the UN’s Genocide Convention, stipulates the death penalty for anyone convicted of intentional “total or partial genocide” against a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Prof. Medina suggests that Hamas’s actions on October 7 might constitute a violation of this law, but convicting low-level combatants on genocide charges is challenging.

Other charges Hamas terrorists could face include assisting an enemy in war, acts of mass terrorism, and various murder charges. While some survivors have testified to mass rape, charges may vary based on the specifics of each case.

The death penalty’s application remains uncertain due to potential legal challenges, political considerations, and international standards. There is significant political pressure to impose the death penalty, but decisions on trial format and charges are pending. The trials will be crucial in addressing the severity of the assault on Israeli citizens and ensuring justice for the victims.

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