Israel rejects South Africa’s genocide claims at ICJ

In a high-stakes legal battle at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israel vehemently refutes South Africa’s accusations of genocide in Gaza, presenting its military operation as an act of self-defense against Hamas.

Protest defending Israel

On Friday, Israel firmly rejected allegations made by South Africa at the United Nations’ highest court, describing them as false and “grossly distorted.” South Africa had accused Israel of conducting a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians through its military operation in Gaza.

Israel, presenting its case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), emphasized that its actions were aimed at self-defense and countering the militant group Hamas, not the Palestinian population. Lawyer Malcolm Shaw, representing Israel, stated unequivocally, “This is no genocide.”

South Africa had asserted that Israel’s aerial and ground offensive in Gaza, resulting in significant destruction and approximately 24,000 casualties, sought the “destruction of the population” of Gaza. Israel vehemently refuted these claims, asserting its adherence to international law and the inherent right to self-defense.

The conflict originated with a cross-border attack by Hamas militants on October 7, prompting Israel’s military intervention. Israeli officials reported 1,200 casualties, predominantly civilians, and 240 hostages taken during the conflict.

Tal Becker, the legal adviser to the Israeli foreign ministry, contended that the suffering of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, was primarily a consequence of Hamas’ strategy. He asserted that if acts of genocide occurred, they were directed against Israel, claiming that “Hamas seeks genocide against Israel.”

The defense team argued that Israel actively worked to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza, including encouraging Palestinians to evacuate. The court is expected to rule later this month on potential emergency measures, including South Africa’s request to halt Israel’s offensive. However, a decision on the genocide accusations is anticipated to take several years.

During the court proceedings, Palestinian supporters in The Hague marched with flags and voiced their dissent, while Israeli supporters gathered separately to advocate for family members taken hostage by Hamas.

Israel contended that South Africa was acting as a mouthpiece for Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, UK, and others. South Africa refuted these accusations. The conflict has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, displacing nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people from their homes. Post-apartheid South Africa has long supported the Palestinian cause, a relationship rooted in historical solidarity during the struggle against white-minority rule.

Mandla Mandela, grandson of the late South African president Nelson Mandela, expressed support for the Palestinian cause at a rally in Cape Town, highlighting its significance as “the greatest moral issue of our time.”

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