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UN court begins public hearing on case accusing Israel of genocide


 , Updated 21:29, 11-Jan-2024
Israeli army tank moves during a ground operation in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, January 10, 2024. /CFP
Israeli army tank moves during a ground operation in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, January 10, 2024. /CFP

Israeli army tank moves during a ground operation in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, January 10, 2024. /CFP

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday began the public hearings on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa in the case accusing Israel of genocide.

Ronald Lamola, South Africa's justice minister, said while delivering his opening statement in the case, "In extending our hands to the people of Palestine, we do so in full knowledge that we are part of a humanity."

"These were the words of our founding president, Nelson Mandela; this is the spirit in which South Africa acceded to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1998."

"No armed attack on a state territory, no matter how serious, can provide justification for or defend breaches of the convention," said Lamola. "Israel's response to the October 7 attack has crossed this line and given rise to the breaches of the convention." 

"Israel has a genocidal intent against the Palestinians in Gaza," Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, advocate of the High Court of South Africa, told the court. "The intent to destroy Gaza has been nurtured at the highest level of state."

Israel has rejected the accusations of genocide as baseless and accused South Africa of playing "advocate of the devil" for Hamas, the Palestinian armed group Israel is fighting against in Gaza.


The 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group".

South Africa points to Israel's sustained bombing campaign that has killed over 23,000 people in the small, densely populated Gaza Strip, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run territory.

The ICJ is hearing South Africa's arguments on Thursday and Israel's response to the allegations on Friday.

It is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month. The court will not rule at that time on the genocide allegations – those proceedings could take years.

The ICJ's decisions are final and without appeal, but the court has no way to enforce them.

Nevertheless, Einar Tangen, a senior fellow at the Taihe Institute, said South Africa's case at ICJ will put Israel's actions in Gaza under a legal spotlight.

Noting the legal proceedings at ICJ won't necessarily render justice, Tangen said Gaza is uninhabitable and the damage has already been done even if the attacks stop today. 

(With input from agencies)

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