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THE HAGUE: South Africa accused Israel on Thursday of subjecting Palestinians to genocidal acts at the opening of hearings at the top U.N. court on a case brought against the devastating Israeli military aggression in Gaza.

In hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, South Africa demanded an emergency suspension of Israel’s aerial and ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave, which it said was aimed at bringing about “the destruction of the population” of Gaza.

“Israel has a genocidal intent against the Palestinians in Gaza,” Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, advocate of the High Court of South Africa, told the court.

“That is evident from the way in which this military attack is being conducted,” he said, adding: “The intent to destroy Gaza has been nurtured at the highest level of state.”

South Africa files ICJ case accusing Israel of ‘genocidal acts’

Israel has rejected the accusations of genocide as baseless and accused Pretoria of playing “advocate of the devil” for Hamas, the Palestinian group Israel is waging war against in Gaza.

The 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

South Africa points to Israel’s sustained bombing campaign that has killed over 23,000 people in the small, densely populated Gaza Strip, according to its health authorities.

“Every day, there is mounting, irreparable loss of life, property, dignity, and humanity for the Palestinian people,” said Adila Hassim, advocate of South Africa’s high court.

“Nothing will stop the suffering, except an order from this court.” South Africa has demanded that the ICJ order Israel to suspend its military campaign.

Israel launched all-out war after a cross-border rampage on October 7 by Hamas in which Israeli officials said 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage back to Gaza.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said South Africa condemned Hamas’ October 7 assault, but added that any attack, even one involving atrocious crimes, was not a justification for violations of the Genocide Convention.

Israel, South Africa to face off at UN top court in Gaza genocide case

Post-apartheid South Africa has long defended the Palestinian cause, a relationship forged when the African National Congress’ struggle against white-minority rule was cheered on by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Emergency ruling

The ICJ is hearing South Africa’s arguments on Thursday and Israel’s response to the allegations on Friday.

It is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month. The court will not rule at that time on the genocide allegations - those proceedings could take years.

The ICJ’s decisions are final and without appeal - but the court has no way to enforce them.

With the politically charged case attracting global attention, supporters of both sides of the case planned marches and rallies in The Hague.

Thousands of pro-Israel protesters marched in freezing temperatures in the city centre early on Thursday, carrying Israeli and Dutch flags and posters with images of people taken hostage by Hamas.

Heavy police presence made sure the pro-Israel march and a pro-Palestinian march, with red-and-green coloured smoke symbolising the Palestinian flag, were kept separate.

Gabi Patlis, a native of Tel Aviv who now lives in the Netherlands, said it was painful to hear Israel accused of genocide. “Especially after 7 October - we were the ones that were attacked,” he told Reuters at the rally.

Israel says allegations baseless

Israeli forces launched their offensive after Hamas carried out a lightning attack across the border in what became the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year history.

Since then, the offensive has laid much of the heavily built-up territory, and nearly all its 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes at least once, causing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on social media platform X: “I want to make a few points absolutely clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population.”

Israel has said it is waging war against Palestinian group, not the Palestinian people.

White House official to visit Beirut, seeking to ease Israel-Lebanon tensions

In its court filings, South Africa cites Israel’s failure to provide food, water, medicine and other essential assistance to Gaza, where Hamas seized power in 2007, two years after Israel ended a 38-year occupation of the enclave.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that the group was following the World Court proceedings with great interest.

“Justice is going to be tested today,” he said. “We urge the court to reject all pressure and take a decision to criminalise the Israeli occupation and stop the aggression on Gaza.”

Comments

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KU Jan 11, 2024 05:10pm
The lawyers for South Africa, presenting the case are something to listen and we should be ashamed of sitting on our hands, as should be the OIC. Our rhetorics for Muslim Ummah are a sham, mostly used to win popularity at election times. Pathetic diplomacy if you can call it.
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Az_Iz Jan 11, 2024 05:43pm
While SA should be commended for trying, nothing meaningful will come out of this, against Israel. These institutions are in place to advance the positions of certain countries, and their lackeys.
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Az_Iz Jan 11, 2024 05:45pm
The outcomes in these institutions depends on who is involved, not what is or has taken place.
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Az_Iz Jan 11, 2024 05:48pm
It is pointless to go to these institutions. These institutions will get some legitimacy that they don't deserve.
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TimetoMoVVeOn Jan 11, 2024 05:54pm
@KU, True that. As a supporter of Israel, even I am appalled at the extent to which they took revenge on the Palestine people. Hamas had to be taught a lesson. But decimating the entire Gaza is NOT CORRECT. I thought Pak would be more vocal on this issue than they have been. In fact, there is not even a lot of noise coming from the Pak FO against Israel. The fact that Pak did not co-sign the SA petition for ICJ shows Pak is not willing to "act." I concur with your rightful angst against Israel, as I believe it is sincere. But in general, the world believes that Pak's so-called love of the Muslims, whether in Palestine, Kashmir, or other places, is just for politics and misdirection.
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KU Jan 11, 2024 06:56pm
@TimetoMoVVeOn , it wasn't revenge, it was and is genocide. Majority of our nation believes in respect and our love for Muslims and other nations without prejudice. While we define the finer points of comments, the primates in leadership role on both sides of the border are a fact undeniable.
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TimetoMoVVeOn Jan 11, 2024 07:26pm
@KU, "Majority of our nation believes in respect and our love for Muslims and other nations without prejudice" Thank you, KU; your comments help me differentiate between the thinking of the regular Pakistan people vs. the leadership. I will be more circumspect in how I post in the forums henceforth. Also, here is something to share my part: my family and I will never ever visit Ayodhya, where the Ram temple is built over the Babri mosque. The experiences of South Indians vs. North Indians w.r.t. the Mughal invasion is very different. So south Indians in general don't support the Ram temple. Just so that you know.
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Love Your Country Jan 11, 2024 08:22pm
How many protests have been held in Pakistan by those who claim to represent the "civil society" of Pakistan? I for one cannot hold my head up on this shameful behaviour.
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Az_Iz Jan 11, 2024 09:11pm
@TimetoMoVVeOn , the UN could not pass a meaningful resolution to stop the genocide. Going to ICJ, will not get anything meaningful against Israel.
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KU Jan 11, 2024 09:34pm
@TimetoMoVVeOn , you don't need to explain yourself on this forum, walk-the-talk on Indian newspapers about your views, lets see how far will that go.
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TimetoMoVVeOn Jan 11, 2024 10:13pm
@KU, we actually did better. We did walk the talk. Through the democratic process. Bjp is a no show in the entire South. The south is ruled by secular parties.
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