South Africa takes Israel to International Court alleging genocide

South Africa lodged a petition with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), seeking an immediate declaration that Israel breached the 1948 Genocide Convention during its actions against the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza. The ICJ, a United Nations platform for resolving state disputes, received this request. Israel dismissed the lawsuit as groundless.

The filing by South Africa accused Israel of violating its commitments under the Genocide Convention, designed after the Holocaust to prohibit attempts to annihilate a people, wholly or partially. South Africa urged the court to issue provisional measures instructing Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza, citing the necessity to prevent further severe harm to Palestinian rights.

No specific date for a court hearing has been scheduled. Although the ICJ in The Hague holds a prestigious position within the U.N., its rulings have sometimes been disregarded. For instance, in March 2022, the court ordered Russia to immediately halt its military actions in Ukraine.

Israel rebuffed the filing. The conflict initiated when Hamas militants allegedly killed 1,200 individuals in a cross-border attack and held 240 hostages, according to Israel’s assessment. In response, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza, resulting in over 21,000 casualties, as per Palestinian health officials.

Israel’s foreign ministry, in response to South Africa’s suit, attributed the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza to Hamas, accusing the group of using civilians as shields and pilfering humanitarian aid. These accusations were denied by Hamas. The ministry emphasized Israel’s efforts to limit harm to non-involved individuals in Gaza and facilitate humanitarian aid entry.

This legal action represents South Africa’s latest endeavor, as a vocal critic of Israel’s conduct in the war, to intensify pressure. Previously, South African lawmakers voted to shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspend all diplomatic ties until a ceasefire was secured in the conflict.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of South Africa released a statement asserting that the application against Israel was submitted on Friday. DIRCO highlighted Israel’s alleged failure to prevent genocide since October 7, 2023, and its purported failure to prosecute direct incitement to genocide.

South Africa has long supported the Palestinian quest for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories, drawing parallels between the Palestinians’ plight and the historical struggles of the Black majority in apartheid-era South Africa. However, Israel vehemently rejects this comparison.

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