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South Africa provides evidence of Israel's violation of the Genocide Convention at the ICJ

The International Court of Justice is holding hearings this week in a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in its war on Gaza and seeking an emergency halt to its Rafah offensive.

May 16, 2024 at 2:48 pm

South Africa, today, has called on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to demand that Israel cease its ground invasion of Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, home to more than 1.4 million displaced Palestinians.

Professor Vaughan Lowe, representing South Africa, emphasised that Israel’s actions in Rafah are part of a concerted effort to destroy Gaza entirely.

He also noted that, while Rafah prompted South Africa’s appeal to the Court, all Palestinians, as a national ethnic and racial group, require protection against potential genocide through Court-ordered measures.

Responding to Israel’s assertions that it is minimising civilian casualties and denying reports of famine in Gaza, Lowe added, “This is the last step in the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people. There is no credible argument that this catastrophe is not real.”

Moreover, Professor John Dugard reminded the Court of its earlier determination in January, warning of a dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza that now poses even greater risks.

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He said, “It is difficult to imagine that the situation could get worse. But unfortunately, it has.”

Dugard highlighted global leaders’ warnings that an assault on Rafah would force more displaced Palestinians “to even less hospitable parts of Gaza without adequate food, water, shelter and hospitals would have disastrous consequences. Israel has not heeded this warning,” he said.

Moreover, Adila Hassim, a lawyer with the delegation, elaborated on what she described as “genocidal conduct” in Gaza.

She shared that “During the past week, while our eyes and attention was drawn to the horrific acts unfolding in Gaza, Israeli tanks rolled again into northern Gaza, an area Israel reported it had cleared many months ago.”

“On 11 May,” she said, “Israel ordered evacuation orders over 22 neighbourhoods in Jabalya in the northern Gaza, at least 100,000 people in the north were forced to flee their devastated homes. That same day of the evacuation orders, Israel began the relentless assault on northern Gaza, killing Palestinian families in their homes.”

Hassim further emphasised the deliberate crippling of Gaza’s medical infrastructure, a humanitarian catastrophe orchestrated by Israel through a “coordinated” strategy of repeated attacks and blocking food and aid from entering the enclave while preventing the chronically ill and injured from seeking medical assistance outside.

As a result of Israel’s military offensive, 1.7 million civilians — over 75 per cent of Gaza’s population — have been forcibly displaced, and civilians face catastrophic levels of hunger and deprivation due to Israel’s restriction on access to basic essentials.

Israel is set to provide its response tomorrow, the concluding day of the preliminary hearing. The Israeli government has rejected the accusation and reiterated its commitment to international law, slamming South Africa’s case as “wholly unfounded” and “morally repugnant”.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, stated on Wednesday to Israeli Army Radio that the short notice for the Court hearings meant there was not enough time for adequate legal preparation.

Although the ICJ’s rulings are binding and final, the Court has no way to enforce them. A ruling against a country is viewed as damaging its international standing and establishing a legal precedent.

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