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South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in Gaza, institutes legal action at ICJ

Palestinians sit among the rubble of a damaged residential building, in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, October 10, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

South Africa has filed an application against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing the country of crimes of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

The ICJ, also called the World Court, is a United Nations (UN) civil court that adjudicates disputes between countries.

It is distinct from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which prosecutes individuals for war crimes.

As members of the UN, both South Africa and Israel are bound by the court.

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South Africa said it initiated the proceedings against the Jewish nation on Friday because it is “gravely concerned with the plight of civilians caught in the present Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip due to the indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants”.

“Furthermore, there are ongoing reports of international crimes, such as crimes against humanity and war crimes, being committed as well as reports that acts meeting the threshold of genocide or related crimes as defined in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, have been and may still be committed in the context of the ongoing massacres in Gaza,” the South African presidency said.

South Africa said Israel’s actions in Gaza “are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent… to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group”.

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ISRAEL REJECTS SUIT

In response to the suit, Lior Haiat, Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, said his country “rejects with disgust the blood libel spread by South Africa in its application”.

Haiat said South Africa’s claim lacks factual and legal basis, adding that it constitutes a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation” of the court.

The Israeli official also accused South Africa of cooperating with a terrorist organisation that is seeking the destruction of the Jewish nation.

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“Israel is committed to international law and acts in accordance with it, and directs its military efforts solely against the Hamas terrorist organization and the other terrorist organizations cooperating with Hamas,” the minister said.

“Israel has made it clear that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not the enemy, and is making every effort to limit harm to civilians and to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. We call on the International Court of Justice and the international community to completely reject South Africa’s baseless claims.”

Since the October 7 attack where Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, killed some 1200 persons in Israel and took hundreds hostage, the Jewish nation has rejected global calls for a ceasefire saying the war would not stop until Hamas is destroyed.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has pegged the casualties at over 21,000 but Israel has rejected the reports and accused Hamas of inflating the numbers.

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