South Africa Makes ‘Mockery’ Of Genocide Charge, Israel Tells UN High Court

Friday’s hearing at the UN’s highest court saw a demonstrator yelling obscenities for a short period of time while Israel was defending its military operation in Gaza.

Less than a minute passed during the International Court of Justice session while security officers led a lady out of the public gallery. A third round of hearings on emergency measures was being held by the Dutch court in The Hague. The South African government is requesting that the court impose a cease-fire in Gaza.

South Africa’s argument “makes a mockery of the heinous charge of genocide,” Israel told the court on Friday. Gilad Noam, the deputy attorney general of Israel, said before a group of fifteen foreign judges that “armed conflict is not a synonym of genocide.” South Africa requested justices impose a halt to Israeli military operations, telling the court on Thursday that the situation in the embattled enclave had reached “a new and horrific stage.”

Attorney Tamar Kaplan-Tourgeman defended Israel’s actions in Gaza, pointing out that they had permitted the entry of fuel and medicine. She said, “Israel takes extraordinary measures to minimize harm to civilians in Gaza.” There was a much lower representation from Israel than at prior sessions. Several of their attorneys, according to Noam, were unavailable at such short notice. On Monday, the nation was notified that hearings would take place on Thursday and Friday. According to Noam, this “significantly impacted” their planning.

A small number of demonstrators gathered outside the Peace Palace to call for the release of the around 100 captives that Hamas is believed to still be holding.

Four petitions for an investigation against Israel have been made to the ICJ by South Africa. The court has previously determined that Israel’s military actions in Gaza pose a “real and imminent risk” to the safety of the Palestinian people.

The nation claims that Israel’s military action in Rafah threatens the “very survival of Palestinians in Gaza,” according to the most recent appeal. Judges in January gave Israel the mandate to halt any acts of genocide, murder, or damage in Gaza, but they did not order an end to the military campaign.

Despite the absence of an internal enforcement system, ICJ justices possess extensive authority to mandate a cessation of hostilities and other actions. Russia has not complied with a court decision from 2022 directing it to stop its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since the war started, the majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been forced to flee their homes.

On October 7, Hamas launched an offensive on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of over 1,200 people and the kidnapping of roughly 250 more. Gaza’s Health Ministry reports that more than 35,000 Palestinians have died in the conflict; the ministry does not differentiate between militants and civilians when calculating this number.

South Africa, whose legal fight is based on concerns that are fundamental to its identity, began proceedings in December 2023. Its ruling party, the African National Congress, has long drawn parallels between its own experience under the apartheid system of white minority rule, which kept the majority of black people in their “homelands,” and Israel’s practices in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. 1994 saw the end of apartheid.

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