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WORLD | 12-01-2024 10:37

Israel rejects South Africa’s genocide allegations at UN court

Israel is defending itself against the allegations at The Hague court in a case filed by South Africa over the three-month military operation in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Israel rejected allegations of genocide at the United Nations’ court, arguing its operations in Gaza are a legitimate defence against the largest calculated mass murder of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust.

Israel “did not start and did not want,” a war, it is “defending itself against Hamas, Palestinian, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organisations whose brutality knows no bounds,” Tal Becker, a lawyer for the nation, said at the International Court of Justice on Friday. “What Israel seeks by operating in Gaza is not to destroy a people, but to protect the people, its people who are under attack on multiple fronts.”

Israel is defending itself against the allegations at The Hague court in a case filed by South Africa over the three-month military operation in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation by the United States and European Union, attacked Israel on October 7 killing 1,200 people. South Africa alleges Israel’s actions violate the Genocide Convention, given the loss of Palestinian lives, displacement and humanitarian suffering since the start of the conflict. Hamas-run health ministry says more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed over the past three months.

“The civilian suffering in this war, like in all wars, is tragic, it is heartbreaking,” Becker said. But it’s a result of Hamas’ “reprehensible strategy of seeking to maximise civilian harm to both Israeli and Palestinians.”

On Thursday, South Africa’s lawyers called on the tribunal to rule that Israel’s strikes constitute genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. South Africa seeks a fast-track ruling that orders an immediate stop to hostilities in Gaza. While the ICJ’s judgments are binding without course for appeal, it cannot itself enforce its orders. 

Israel has “killed an unparalleled, an unprecedented number of civilians with full knowledge of how many civilian lives each bomb will take,” Adila Hassim, a lawyer representing South Africa said in arguments on Thursday. 

The 17-judge panel will only analyse whether they should impose orders on Israel to end its military operations, while the case is pending. The court hasn’t yet set a date for its preliminary ruling.

“Self defence is no answer to genocide. Nothing can ever justify genocide,” Ronald Lamola, South Africa’s Justice Minister, said to reporters after the hearing on Friday.

Meanwhile, the German government said it intends to intervene as a third party in the main hearing, rejecting the genocide allegations against Israel, according to a statement from a spokesperson. 

 

– TIMES/BLOOMBERG

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by Sarah Jacob & Karin Matussek, Bloomberg

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