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Watch in full: Israel responds to claims it is violating Genocide Convention?

In its defence to claims by South Africa that it is in breach of the Genocide Conventions, Israel claimed there are no grounds on which Petoria can make its claims, negating the points raised in yesterday's hearing. It also said it was surprised to be called up to the ICJ at such short notice and thus had been unable to ensure its best legal team could attend the hearing.

May 17, 2024 at 9:02 am

Israel defended its ongoing military onslaught in Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) today following a call from South Africa for the Court to demand an end to Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah, home to more than 1.4 million displaced Palestinians.

Gilad Noam, Israel’s deputy Attorney-General for International Affairs, argued that Israel is engaged in a war against Hamas and refuted claims of genocide, slamming South Africa’s case as “completely divorced from facts and circumstances”.

He told the Court, “By exploiting the Genocide Convention, South Africa is suggesting a convoluted reading of international law, under which any conflict can be brought to this Court.”

Noam further accused South Africa of being aligned with Hamas, “which it does not wish to see defeated” and highlighted a recent meeting between the South African Foreign Minister and a Hamas delegation in Johannesburg.

He added, “She did not urge Hamas to release hostages, cease using human shields, cease operating in UN hospitals or other protected sites” and that, therefore, South Africa, “is not interested in truth, law or justice.”

WATCH: Israel responds to claims it is violating Genocide Convention

Moreover, he stated that Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza and the focal point of the hearing, is a centre of “ongoing terrorist activity”, including the holding of hostages.

He said, “Only by bringing down Hamas’s military control in Rafah will Gaza be liberated from the murderous Hamas regime and the road to prosperity and peace be paved.”

The hearings at the ICJ were briefly interrupted when a protester shouted “liars” during the presentation by Israel’s Foreign Ministry legal adviser, Tamar Kaplan Tourgeman, who accused South Africa of falsely alleging that Israel had cut off Gaza from the outside world and humanitarian aid.

She pointed out that Israel has opened three new land crossings into Gaza from Israeli territory, expanded the capacity of existing crossings and invested $52 million in expanding infrastructure and road capacity for all crossings.

“It is not difficult to see that Israel has been making additional efforts to increase the provision of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza. South Africa’s complete disregard of this reality and truth is as telling as it is alarming,” said Tourgeman.

Meanwhile, Israel has killed more than 35,200 Palestinians and wounded more than 79,200 others since October. Most of the casualties are children and women. Millions are displaced in Gaza, and face famine and acute shortages of medical aid and other essentials.

Before closing the hearing, the ICJ posed a question to the Israeli delegation regarding humanitarian conditions in the declared “evacuation zones” in Gaza.

Judge Georg Nolte read the question: “Can Israel provide information about the existing humanitarian conditions in the designated evacuation zones, particularly in Al-Mawasi, and how it will ensure safe passage to these zones, as well as the provision of shelter, food, water and other humanitarian aid and assistance to all evacuees currently in or expected to arrive in these zones?”

The Court requested that Israel submit a written reply to the question by tomorrow, 18 May, at 4 p.m.

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.

READ: South Africa provides evidence of Israel’s violation of the Genocide Convention at the ICJ