Israel is preparing to defend itself at the United Nations’ top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, against accusations of genocide in Gaza. This comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rejects calls by some right-wing ministers to permanently occupy the Gaza Strip for the first time.
As Israel’s conflict with Hamas militants continues in Gaza, the ICJ is set to hold two days of hearings in a case initiated by South Africa in December. South Africa claims that the ongoing war violates the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesperson, stated, “The State of Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice to refute South Africa’s accusations and provide a counterargument. Israel sees these claims as baseless and politically motivated.”
The hearings will focus on South Africa’s request for an emergency order that calls for Israel to suspend its military actions in Gaza while the court, also known as the World Court, examines the merits of the case. This process could potentially take several years.
Colombia and Brazil expressed their support for South Africa’s position late on Wednesday.
Israel initiated its offensive after Hamas fighters carried out a cross-border attack on October 7, resulting in Israel reporting 1,200 casualties and 240 abductions.
Since then, Israeli forces have caused significant destruction in Gaza, leading to a humanitarian crisis, with nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents being displaced at least once. The conflict has resulted in more than 23,000 Palestinian casualties.
The United States rejected South Africa’s genocide claims while urging Israel to take greater measures to protect Palestinian civilians. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller stated, “Allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded. Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas’ terrorist acts. However, it must also adhere to international humanitarian law and actively work to prevent harm to civilians and investigate credible allegations of violations of international humanitarian law.”
On the eve of the hearings, Prime Minister Netanyahu opposed calls from right-wing members of his government, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who advocated for voluntary Palestinian departures from Gaza to make way for Israeli settlements.
Netanyahu clarified his stance, saying, “I want to make a few points absolutely clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population. Israel is fighting against Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law.”