Israel Counters South Africa’s Genocide Claims at UN Court

By Yoni Weiss

The Peace Palace office of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, is pictured through a fence in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Israel responded to South Africa’s appeal at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Friday. This follows the court’s decision to hold two days of hearings to consider South Africa’s request for temporary orders requiring Israel to cease its military operations in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza. The hearings began on Thursday, with a live broadcast available.

This marks the fourth instance in which South Africa has sought emergency measures from the ICJ, alleging that Israel’s military actions in its war against the Hamas in Gaza constitute genocide. A decision on South Africa’s request is expected within a few days due to its urgent nature, according to Israeli experts.

Should Israel ignore any new orders from the ICJ, the matter could escalate to the UN Security Council. The United States might support Israel by using its veto power, but non-compliance could strain Israel’s political relations with key countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany, potentially leading to discussions of an arms embargo.

Non-compliance could also increase the likelihood of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issuing arrest warrants against senior Israeli officials. The ICC is currently investigating several cases involving both Israel and Hamas, including issues related to settlement construction and the Gaza war.

Israel requested to postpone the ICJ hearing until next week, but this was denied by the court. The Israeli delegation at the hearing includes representatives from the ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, and Defense, led by Deputy Ombudsman for International Legal Affairs Dr. Gilad Noam.

South Africa initially appealed to the ICJ in the early months of the war, accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza. In its renewed application, South Africa seeks measures to prevent further harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention and to ensure Israel’s compliance with its obligations to prevent and punish acts of genocide.

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