The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague commenced a two-day hearing on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel over the Gaza war. Amidst the proceedings, Israeli forces continued to bombard the Gaza Strip, resulting in over 100 Palestinian deaths and nearly 200 injuries within 24 hours, as reported by the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Outside the court, pro-Palestinian demonstrators urged an end to Israel’s military operations. Here are the key takeaways from the first day of the ICJ hearing:
South Africa Seeks Injunction Against Israel
- South Africa opened the hearing by presenting its case against Israel, demanding an immediate suspension of Israeli military operations in Gaza. The plea highlighted that over 23,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli attacks since October 7.
- Pretoria’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vusimuzi Madonsela, asserted that Israel’s actions formed part of a continuum of illegal acts against Palestinians since 1948.
- South Africa’s Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola, argued that Israel’s response to Hamas’ attacks crossed a line, emphasizing that no armed attack could justify breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
List of ‘Genocidal Acts’
- Adila Hassim, representing South Africa’s case, outlined what she claimed were violations of the Genocide Convention by Israel. She cited the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza as the first genocidal act, showcasing photos of mass graves.
- The second genocidal act, according to Hassim, involved serious bodily or mental harm inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza, with close to 60,000 wounded and maimed, primarily women and children.
Israel’s Actions in Question
- The hearing addressed the question of jurisdiction, with arguments that obligations under the Genocide Convention are owed to the international community. South Africa asserted that it attempted to reach the Israeli government before filing the case.
- UN bodies, human rights organizations, and states have collectively considered Israel’s acts as genocidal or warned of the risk of genocide against the Palestinian people, claimed Max du Plessis, another lawyer representing South Africa.
Israel’s Response and Future Proceedings
- The court was adjourned after three hours of South Africa’s presentation, with Israel set to present its oral arguments on the following day.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed South Africa’s accusations as hypocrisy and lies, asserting that Israel is fighting against terrorists committing crimes against humanity.
- Lior Haiat, spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized the hearing as a show of hypocrisy and accused South Africa of seeking to allow Hamas to commit war crimes.
As the ICJ proceedings continue, any ruling in favor of South Africa could increase pressure on Israel, particularly considering the United States’ historical support for Israel.