South Africa are accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian population in Gaza in a landmark trial taking place in the United Nation’s (UN) International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The hearing, which began on January 11 in The Hague in the Netherlands, opened with a litany of charges against Israel whose conduct of war allegedly violates the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention, according to South African lawyers.
London-based Irish human rights lawyer, Blinne Ni Ghrálaigh is one of two external experts supporting the South African legal team.
The prosecuting counsel argue that genocidal intent is being fostered by Israel at the highest administrative ranks and is evident in their use of dehumanising rhetoric, “the targeting of family homes and civilian infrastructure, the bombing, shelling and sniping of men women and children and the lack of access to humanitarian assistance.”
100 days has passed since Israel declared war against the terrorist organisation Hamas in the Gaza strip and it is already being condemned as “one of the heaviest conventional bombing campaigns in the history of modern warfare,” as said by South African barrister Adila Hassim.
Israel vehemently denies the allegations and are expected to deliver a counter argument based on the right of self-defence against Hamas, who attacked Israeli communities on October 7 last year, killing 1,200 people and capturing 240 hostages.
Israeli lawyers are expected to testify that their warfare has been in line with international law and that Israel’s survival is at stake so long as Hamas continues to operate.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the charges in a televised speech to his nation claiming “the South African case was based on hypocrisy and lies” and that his country was “fighting against a genocide that Hamas was determined to perpetrate against Israel.”
The war continues to wreak havoc on civilian life in Gaza, accounting for an estimated death toll of 24,000 people, 10,000 of which is reported to have been children, according to a new report by the charity Save the Children.
Tens of thousands of buildings have also been destroyed in the wake of the artillery bombardment resulting in the displacement of 85% of the population, according to UN’s Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA.
“They [Palestinian civilians] are also at immediate risk of death by starvation, dehydration and disease as a result of the ongoing siege by Israel, the destruction of Palestinian towns, the insufficient aid being allowed through to the Palestinian population and the impossibility of distributing the limited aid while bombs fall,” said Adila Hassim.
“This conduct renders essentials to life unobtainable,” continued Ms Hassim.
Genocide cases can take years to culminate but provisionally, South Africa has demanded the ICJ to mandate an immediate suspension of Israel’s military campaign in the region amongst other measures.
Israel will be provided the same opportunity to defend their position and a judgement will be declared in due course. However, there is no legal obligation for Israel to abide by the court’s findings.