South Africa launches case at World Court accusing Israel of ‘genocidal acts’ in Gaza

Israeli soldiers engaged in a ground offensive in Gaza

South Africa has filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of engaging in “genocidal acts” in Gaza where Israeli attacks have killed 21,000 people, mostly women and children.

Reuters reported that South Africa on Friday asked for an urgent order from ICJ, also known as World Court, declaring that Israel was in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its crackdown against the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza.

South Africa accuses Israel of violating its obligations under the treaty, drafted in the wake of the Holocaust, which makes it a crime to attempt to destroy a people in whole or in part.

“South Africa 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… have been and may still be committed in the context of the ongoing massacres in Gaza,” South Africa’s presidency said in a statement.

According to Reuters, South Africa wants the ICJ to issue provisional, or short-term, measures ordering Israel to stop its military campaign in Gaza, which it said were “necessary in this case to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, Israel has described South Africa’s filing as a despicable and contemptuous exploitation of the Court.

The BBC quoted Lior Haiat, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign affairs ministry, as saying that  South Africa was “cooperating with a terrorist organisation that is calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Haiat claimed that Hamas was “responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by using them as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid from them”.

The ICJ, which is based in the Hague in the Netherlands, is the UN’s principal legal body. It settles disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on international legal issues. However, its rulings are sometimes ignored.

The war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7 when militants of the Islamist group Hamas killed 1,200 people in a cross-border attack on Israel and seized 240 hostages. Israel responded by attacking Gaza where it has killed over 21,000 people.