The Hague, Dec 30 – South Africa has submitted an urgent plea to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking a declaration that Israel has breached its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its recent actions against the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza. The Genocide Convention, established in the aftermath of the Holocaust, deems it a crime to attempt to destroy a people in whole or in part.

Israel swiftly dismissed the suit as “baseless,” with the foreign ministry asserting that the accusations were unfounded. In response to South Africa’s filing, Israel’s foreign ministry laid blame on Hamas, accusing the group of using Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as human shields and diverting humanitarian aid, allegations that Hamas denies.

The South African filing alleges that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza violates its obligations under the Genocide Convention. It has urged the ICJ to issue provisional measures directing Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza to prevent further harm to the rights of the Palestinian people.

No date has been set for a hearing, and while the ICJ is recognized as the United Nations’ highest court for resolving disputes between states, its rulings have been known to be occasionally disregarded.

The conflict in question began on October 7 when militants from the Islamist group Hamas launched a cross-border attack on Israel, resulting in the death of 1,200 people and the seizure of 240 hostages, according to Israel. In response, Israel initiated a military assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, claiming the lives of over 21,000 people, as reported by Palestinian health officials.

Palestine, designated as having “observer state” status by the court, welcomed South Africa’s legal action, emphasizing the need for immediate measures to protect the Palestinian people and calling on Israel to cease its military operations.

This move by South Africa follows its recent parliamentary vote in favor of closing the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspending diplomatic relations with Israel. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) accused Israel of failing to prevent genocide since October 7, 2023, and neglecting to prosecute direct and public incitement to genocide.

South Africa, a long-time critic of Israel’s policies, has supported the Palestinian cause for statehood in territories occupied by Israel. The country draws parallels between the situation of Palestinians and the historical struggles of the Black majority in South Africa during the apartheid era, a comparison vehemently rejected by Israel.

Separately, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is conducting its own investigation into alleged atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank. However, Israel, not being a member of the ICC, rejects its jurisdiction. The developments underscore the escalating tensions and the complex web of legal and diplomatic challenges surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.