International

ICJ Genocide Case Hearing: South Africa Says This May Be Court's 'Last Chance' To Act; Israel To Respond Today

The UN top court will allow Israel to answer the accusations levelled against it by South Africa during the hearing on Friday.

AP
The ICJ opened the two-day hearings of the case request made by South Africa. Photo: AP
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The United Nations' top court -- International Court of Justice (ICJ) -- on Thursday began hearing South Africa's plea to urge Israel to halt its military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where over half the Gazan population has sought refuge.

The ICJ held hearings on the conflicts in Gaza for the third time since South Africa moved the proceedings in December at the court in The Hague, Netherlands, accusing Israel of genocide.

Till now, South Africa has submitted four requests before the International Court of Justice to investigate Israel and of those, three hearings were granted.

South Africa initiated proceedings in December 2023. Its ruling party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israeli policies in Gaza and the occupied West Bank to its own history of white minority rule and the apartheid regime.

TOP POINTS

  • The UN top court will allow Israel to answer the accusations levelled against it by South Africa during the hearing on Friday.

  • Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh -- a part of South Africa's legal team -- noted that the court has already found that there is "real and imminent risk" from the Israeli military operations to the Palestinians in Gaza. "This may well be the last chance for the court to act," he added.

  • Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, urged the 15 international judges' panel to direct Israel to “totally and unconditionally withdraw” from the Gaza Strip.

  • This plea stated that The Hague-based court's previous orders were not enough to address "a brutal military attack on the sole remaining refuge for the people of Gaza."

  • In its latest request to the ICJ, South Africa argued that Israel's military operations have far surpassed the justified limit of self-defense. Lawyer Vaughan Lowe said, "Israel's actions in Rafah are part of the end game. This is the last step in the destruction of Gaza."

  • Notably, Egypt on Sunday announced its plans to join the case. The Foreign Affairs Ministry said Israeli military operations "constitute a flagrant violation of international law, humanitarian law, and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 regarding the protection of civilians during wartime."

  • At hearings earlier this year, Israel strongly dismissed the allegations of committing genocide in Gaza, saying it does everything it can to spare the lives of civilians and is only targeting Hamas militants. It termed Rafah to be last stronghold of Hamas.

  • In January, the judges had ordered Israel to do everything in its power to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza. However, it did not pass an order to end the military operations.

  • Then in March, the court passed its second directive and told Israel to take measures necessary to improve the humanitarian situation.

Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, leaving around 1,200 people dead. The militant outfit took around 250 hostages. Meanwhile the Gaza Health Ministry has said that over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, without specifying the number of civilians and combatants among the deceased in the court.

(With agency inputs)

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