Israel has vehemently defended itself against accusations of genocide, as presented by South Africa, at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The Israeli representatives have criticized South Africa’s portrayal of the conflict, labelling it as “profoundly distorted” and alarmingly similar to the narrative of Hamas.
A day after South Africa’s grave allegations that Israel committed genocidal acts in Gaza, intending to do so from “the highest levels of state”, Israel countered on Friday, describing the accusations as a “partial and deeply flawed picture.”
Israel’s legal team pointed out that many Palestinian civilian deaths, exceeding 23,000 since 7 October, and the destruction of thousands of buildings cited by South Africa, were attributed to Hamas, either directly or indirectly.
Israel’s lawyers argued that civilian casualties resulted from Hamas’ tactics, such as booby-trapping homes, mining alleyways, and misfiring rockets. They emphasized that Hamas’ use of schools and hospitals for military purposes led to the collapse of these structures.
Tal Becker, the Israeli foreign ministry’s legal adviser, argued that South Africa’s application for the court to order a ceasefire was an “unconscionable request” that undermined Israel’s right to self-defence. Becker detailed the 7 October attacks by Hamas and other militants, highlighting incidents of rape and mutilation, and played an audio recording purportedly of a Palestinian militant.
Countering South Africa’s claims that Israeli political and military leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, intended to commit genocide, Israel’s legal team referenced Netanyahu’s comments, suggesting they were partially quoted out of context.
Professor Malcolm Shaw, speaking for Israel, said: “The IDF is the most moral army in the world. The IDF does everything to avoid harming the uninvolved.”
Shaw also responded to South Africa’s allegations of genocide convention breaches, asserting that the cited comments were rhetorical and expressed in the aftermath of traumatic events, aimed at restoring control and ensuring safety for Israeli citizens.
Dr Omri Sander and Dr Galit Raguam from Israel’s legal team emphasized the country’s efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, often hindered by Hamas. They noted that hospitals were not bombed but searched for military infrastructure.
The Palestinian death toll from the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip has risen sharply, according to the Gaza-based Health Ministry. Ministry Spokesperson Ashraf al-Qedra stated that the Israeli army killed and wounded numerous Palestinians in the past 24 hours, with thousands in urgent need of treatment outside Gaza. Al-Qedra appealed to the UN for urgent intervention to provide basic necessities to the displaced population.
As the court proceedings concluded on Friday, the president of the court, Judge Joan Donoghue, stated that a decision on whether to grant provisional measures would be made as soon as possible.
South African lawyers have requested the court to order an immediate halt to Israeli military operations in Gaza, a decision that is likely to take weeks, with the full case expected to last years. Israel has urged the court to reject all provisional measures requested by South Africa, arguing that they would unfairly benefit Hamas.
Meanwhile, Germany has announced its intention to intervene in the proceedings on Israel’s behalf, firmly rejecting any accusations of genocide against Israel. The German government emphasized its commitment to the UN genocide convention, especially in light of its history and the Holocaust.
The Israeli foreign ministry’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, urged the judges to dismiss South Africa’s request to halt Israel’s offensive, arguing that compliance would leave Israel defenceless.
A spokesperson from the Gaza-based Health Ministry said on Thursday that the Palestinian death toll from ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip has risen to 23,469.
Ashraf al-Qedra, stated in a press release that the Israeli army killed 112 Palestinians and wounded 194 others over the past 24 hours.
Al-Qedra further revealed that since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict, 59,604 Palestinians have been wounded due to Israeli attacks, with 6,200 of them urgently needing treatment outside Gaza.
“The situation in hospitals in the southern Gaza Strip is extremely catastrophic, resulting from the overcrowding with wounded and tens of thousands of displaced people,” he added.
Al-Qedra urgently called on UN institutions “to provide water, food, and shelter to the displaced before a catastrophe occurs, the consequences of which cannot be tolerated.”
Palestinian security sources reported that intense Israeli bombardment from the air, land, and sea continued in most parts of the Gaza Strip, particularly in the governorates of Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis.
Last Friday, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said Gaza had become “uninhabitable” after relentless bombing by Israeli forces in retaliation for the Hamas militant group’s attack in October.
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