South Africa has filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing it of crimes of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza after nearly three months of relentless Israeli bombardment has killed more than 21,500 people and caused widespread destruction in the besieged enclave.
According to international media report, in an application to the court on Friday, South Africa described Israel’s actions in Gaza as “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group”.
“The acts in question include killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction,” the application said.
As members of the UN, both South Africa and Israel are bound by the court.
As per international media reports, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has compared Israel’s policies in Gaza and the occupied West Bank with his country’s past apartheid regime of racial segregation imposed by the white-minority rule that ended in 1994.
Several human rights organisations have said that Israeli policies towards Palestinians amount to apartheid.
South Africa said Israel’s conduct, particularly since the war began on October 7, violates the UN’s Genocide Convention, and called for an expedited hearing. The application also requests the court to indicate provisional measures to “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people” under the Convention.
“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,” a statement from South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said, adding that the country has “repeatedly stated that it condemns all violence and attacks against all civilians, including Israelis.”
“South Africa has continuously called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and the resumption of talks that will end the violence arising from the continued belligerent occupation of Palestine,” the statement added.
Israel has rejected global calls for a ceasefire saying the war would not stop until the Hamas group, whose October 7 attack triggered the current phase of the conflict, was destroyed. Some 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas attack in Israel. The Palestinian group has said its attack was against Israel’s 16-year-old blockade of Gaza and expansion of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Settlement expansions pose the biggest hurdle in the realisation of a future Palestinian state comprising Gaza, occupied West Banka and East Jerusalem.
In the latest development in Israel’s war on Gaza, tens of thousands of newly displaced Palestinians in the centre of the Palestinian enclave on Friday were forced to flee further south as Israel expanded its ground and air offensive in the centre of the enclave.
Israel has faced global condemnation for the mounting toll and destruction and is accused of meting out collective punishment on the Palestinian people.
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.
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