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S'Africa's court request for order halting Israel's offensive in Gaza cast light on its own histo

Preview of hearings on SAfrica's request for order halting Israel's military campaign in Gaza   -  
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International Court of Justice

South Africa's long-held support for the Palestinian people can be traced back to the time of Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat.

The two leaders believed that the struggle for freedom by Blacks in apartheid South Africa and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were the same.

That solidarity has survived for more than 30 years.

It may explain why South Africa took the unusual step of opening a case with the United Nations' top court accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in the war in Gaza.

The South African government will on Thursday have its case heard against Israel for alleged acts of genocide committed in Gaza since the conflict ensued three months ago at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Israel stringently denies the genocide allegations.

In an interview with the Associated Press, legal analyst Thamsanqa Malusi said the case is brought in terms of the Genocide Convention.

And South Africa is arguing that Israel has violated its obligations under the Genocide Convention in that there are genocidal acts that are being committed by Israel within the Gaza Strip.

Malusi said that the case is particularly resonant with South Africans given their history of Apartheid.

"This conflict is happening against the backdrop of an Israel state that many international human rights organizations called an apartheid state...And I think that resonates strongly with South Africa, given its past, its history, its past of apartheid as well, which the existing ANC (African National Congress) government, you know, fought against."

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa — the current leader of the African National Congress — has criticised both Israel and Hamas for what he calls atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict.

But he also appeared in public wearing a keffiyeh and holding a Palestine flag, even as he offered condolences to Israel over the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, leaving little doubt where South Africa's sympathies lie.

Two days of preliminary hearings at the ICJ begin with lawyers for South Africa explaining to judges why the country has accused Israel of “acts and omissions" that are “genocidal in character” in the Gaza war and has called for an immediate halt to Israel's military actions.

Thursday’s opening hearing is focused on South Africa’s request for the court to impose binding interim orders including that Israel halt its military campaign. A decision will likely take weeks.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 23,200 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children, health officials say. The death toll does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

In the Oct. 7 attack, in which Hamas overwhelmed Israel’s defences and stormed through several communities, Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians. They abducted around 250 others, nearly half of whom have been released.