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South Africa files ICJ case accusing Israel of 'genocidal acts' in Gaza

By Agence France-Presse Published Dec 30, 2023 10:07 am

South Africa launched a case on Friday at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for what it said were "genocidal" acts in Gaza, with Israel rejecting the case "with disgust."

According to a statement, the ICJ application related to alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Genocide Convention, and said that "Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza."

In The Hague application, South Africa also says that Israel has been acting "with the requisite specific intent... to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group."

Israel rejected the charge, with Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat writing on X, formerly Twitter: "Israel rejects with disgust the blood libel spread by South Africa and its application" to the ICJ.

The shrouded bodies of people killed in Rafah during Israeli bombardment on the southern Gaza strip are placed on a truck for burial outside Al-Najar Hospital on December 29, 2023

The war started by the violent Hamas attacks on Israel is nearing its twelfth week, with vast areas of northern Gaza in ruins and Israeli air strikes and ground combat focusing on central and southern districts.

Hamas gunmen launched an attack on October 7 that left about 1,140 people dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The Palestinian militants also took about 250 people hostage -- more than half of whom remain captive inside the war zone, some of them believed dead.

Israel's relentless military campaign since then has killed more than 21,500 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

'Irreparable harm'

In the ICJ filing, South Africa asks the court to "protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people".

South Africa has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party often linking it to its own struggle against apartheid.

Pretoria has strongly condemned Israel's response to the Hamas attacks and has recalled all its diplomats from the country.  

Israel in turn has recalled its ambassador in South Africa.

A picture taken from a position in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on December 29, 2023, shows an Israeli army APC (Armored Personal Carrier) rolling on.

Decisions by the ICJ, which judges disputes between states, are final—but it has no means of enforcing its decisions.

It can also order emergency measures pending the full resolution of cases, which can take many years.

In November five countries, including South Africa, called for an International Criminal Court investigation into the Israel-Hamas war.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, and Djibouti—all ICC members—had sought an investigation of "the situation in the state of Palestine." (AFP)