South Africa has formally submitted a case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in its military operations in Gaza. The submission contends that Israel is in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention and calls for an immediate halt to military activities in the besieged enclave.
The application from Cape Town argues that urgent intervention by the ICJ is essential to prevent further severe harm to the rights of the Palestinian people. It requests the ICJ to declare Israel in breach of its obligations, demanding an immediate cessation of all actions violating those obligations and the implementation of related measures.
“Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” South Africa’s application said.
This move follows South Africa’s recent efforts to exert pressure on Israel, including a parliamentary vote in favor of closing the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and severing diplomatic ties until a ceasefire is achieved.
Israel dismissed the allegations, labelling the case as “baseless.” The Israeli foreign ministry placed blame on Hamas for the suffering and casualties in Gaza.
“Israel has made it clear that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not the enemy, and is making every effort to limit harm to the non-involved and to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.
While the ICJ’s decisions are legally binding, the court lacks the power to enforce its opinions. However, analysts suggest that such decisions can influence global narratives, potentially impacting Israel’s international reputation.
According to the government’s death toll, 1,200 Israelis and other nationals lost their lives in the conflict, which erupted on October 7. In contrast, the Palestinian health ministry reports over 21,000 Palestinians killed in Israel’s aerial and ground assault, with a majority being women and children.
Israel’s military actions have targeted various civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, residential areas, ambulances, and mosques, resulting in the leveling of entire neighborhoods. The UN’s Genocide Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court define genocide as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
Legal experts, UN officials, and over 800 scholars have previously warned of the potential for Israel committing genocide against Palestinians.