South Africa brings genocide accusation against Israel to International Court of Justice News
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South Africa brings genocide accusation against Israel to International Court of Justice

South Africa initiated proceedings against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, according to a press release from the ICJ.

South Africa alleges that Israel’s actions during its military operations in Gaza violate the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention. Particularly, South Africa claims that Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza. South Africa’s application states that Israel’s acts are “genocidal in character” because they are “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.”

South Africa’s application contends:

Israel has bombed, shelled and besieged Gaza’s hospitals, with only 13 out of 36 hospitals in Gaza partially functional and no fully functioning hospitals left in North Gaza. Gaza’s healthcare system has all but collapsed, with reports of operations, including amputations and caesarean sections, taking place without anaesthetic.

South Africa also cited an AP report claiming that Israeli military attacks have “wreaked more destruction than the razing of Syria’s Aleppo between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine’s Mariupol, or proportionally, the Allied bombing of Germany in World War II.”

Gaza’s health ministry claims that at least 21,507 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and over 55,915 other Palestinians have been wounded. UNICEF reports that over a third of the death toll is children. The health ministry also said that over 355,000 homes, equivalent to more than 60 percent of Gaza’s housing stock, have been damaged or destroyed, and the UN states that around 80 percent of Gaza’s population has been forcibly displaced.

Israel denies that its conduct in Gaza violates its obligations under the Genocide Convention, asserting that “[t]he accusation of genocide against Israel is not only wholly unfounded as a matter of fact and law, it is morally repugnant” and “antisemitic.” Israel has dismissed as “outrageous and false” the assertion that their military operations meet “the legal definition of genocide” and are aimed at “not just simply the killing of innocent people and the destruction of their livelihoods but a systematic effort to empty Gaza of its people.” On December 26, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, “We are not stopping. We are continuing to fight, and we are deepening the fighting in the coming days, and this will be a long battle and it is not close to being over.”

South Africa’s application noted that their application “is made against the background of South Africa’s foreign policy objective for the attainment of a durable peace between Israel and the State of Palestine, with two States existing side by side within internationally recognised borders.” South Africa requested a ceasefire as a provisional measure pending the ICJ’s determination of the issue on the merits.