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ICJ hears Israeli arguments on South Africa’s genocide allegations

Gilad Naom, left, sits with fellow representatives. Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong

ICJ hears Israeli arguments on South Africa’s genocide allegations

Israel’s preferred legal team was not able to make it to the arguments before the International Court of Justice on Friday, according to court documents. Israel’s attorneys said that’s because the court gave a mere four days of notice after it suddenly decided to hear oral arguments instead of accepting written ones. As the preferred legal team was not available on such short notice, a substitute team of representatives spoke on Israel’s behalf against genocide allegations made by South Africa. That substitute team of representatives also noted that the ICJ had refused to delay arguments to next week.

What is South Africa alleging, exactly? South Africa has filed a case against Israel with the International Court of Justice, alleging Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The ICJ has issued an initial decision ordering Israel to take the measures necessary to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.

Months later on Thursday, representatives from South Africa appeared before the court, alleging that Israeli forces have been escalating their military operations in Gaza. South Africa alleged that Israel was only claiming Hamas was using civilians as human shields so that it had an excuse to kill noncombatant Palestinians. It also noted that Israel’s increasing operations against Rafah present a serious advance in Israel’s alleged campaign, which South Africa characterizes as genocide.

What did Israel have to say in court against those allegations? The day after South Africa’s latest arguments, Israel’s representatives began by explaining that South Africa’s depictions represented an inversion of the facts of reality. “First, Israel is engaged in a war it did not want and did not start,” said Gilad Noam, deputy attorney general for international law for the Israeli Ministry of Justice. He said Israel has been fighting a war to defend itself against Hamas and rescue hostages that Hamas captured.

Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing thousands of Israeli citizens and abducting hundreds, Noam said. Since then, terrorists in Gaza have launched thousands of rockets against Israel—almost 300 in the last two weeks alone. The violence has displaced more than 60,000 Israelis who were living in southern Israel, Noam added.

Noam acknowledged that many Palestinians had fled to Rafah, but the city still serves as a key stronghold for Hamas. He said several battalions of Hamas fighters remain in the area and that over the course of the war thus far, terrorists have launched more than 1,400 rockets from the Rafah area—roughly 120 in the past two weeks alone. Israel has observed roughly 600 missile launch sites in the city.

South Africa had alleged that if Rafah fell, Gaza would fall, as well. Noam argued that only when the Hamas stronghold in Rafah was destroyed could Gaza be free from the Hamas terrorist regime’s rule. Noam also added that Israeli forces have taken steps to avoid civilian casualties in Rafah, like avoiding a large-scale military operation and choosing instead to conduct limited and precise operations in the area. “We do not wish harm to these civilians, as Hamas does,” he said.

Dig deeper: Read my report in The Sift about the United Nations lowering its estimates of the number of women and children killed in Gaza and its explanation for why it did so.

Josh Schumacher

Josh is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. He’s a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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