South Africa seeks genocide order against Israel

US and other countries are anxious to prevent the war from spreading through the Middle East.

US and other countries are anxious to prevent the war from spreading through the Middle East. Photo: AAP

South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice for an urgent order declaring that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the Genocide Convention in its ongoing crackdown against Hamas in Gaza.

In the latest development in Israel’s war against Hamas, tens of thousands of newly displaced Gazans sought refuge in the centre of the Palestinian enclave on Friday after fleeing an Israeli tank offensive while warplanes attacking the south flattened homes and buried families as they slept.

Israel on Friday rejected South Africa’s launch of a genocide case against it as a baseless blood libel with no legal merit and said it was abiding by international law in its war on Hamas.

“South Africa is collaborating with a terrorist group that calls for Israel’s destruction,” a statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said.

“The people of Gaza are not an enemy of Israel, who is making efforts to limit harm to non-combatants.”

The court application is the latest move by South Africa, a vociferous critic of Israel’s war, to ratchet up pressure after its lawmakers last month voted in favour of closing down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspending all diplomatic relations until a ceasefire was agreed in Israel’s war with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.

In a statement from South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the government said the application against Israel was filed on Friday.

“Israel, since 7 October 2023 in particular, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide,” DIRCO said in a statement.

It said it had requested that the ICJ declare “on an urgent basis that Israel is in breach of its obligations in terms of the Genocide Convention, should immediately cease all acts and measures in breach of those obligations and take a number of related actions”.

The ICJ is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and helps settle disputes between states in accordance with international law.

South Africa has backed the Palestinian cause for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories for decades, likening the plight of Palestinians to those of the black majority in South Africa during the repressive apartheid-era, a comparison Israel vehemently denies.

The new Israeli assaults in central and southern Gaza on Friday propelled a new exodus of people already driven from other areas in what Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant called an essential stage of its mission to destroy its foe Hamas.

Twelve weeks after Hamas militants stormed Israeli towns, killing 1200 people and seizing 240 hostages, Israeli forces have laid much of the Gaza Strip to waste.

Nearly all its 2.3 million people have fled their homes at least once and many are now on the move again, often reduced to taking shelter in makeshift tents or huddled under tarpaulins and plastic sheets on open ground.

Gaza health authorities said 187 more Palestinians were confirmed killed in Israeli strikes in the past 24 hours, raising the toll to 21,507 – about 1 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s population.

Thousands more bodies are feared to be buried in the ruins of obliterated neighbourhoods.

In the south, Israeli forces have been pounding Khan Younis in preparation for an anticipated further advance into the main southern city, swathes of which they captured in early December.

Gallant said troops were reaching Hamas command centres and arms depots.

“Our operations are essential to achieving the goals of the war. We see the results and the destruction of enemy forces,” he said.


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