Israel's opening argument has begun, in order to defend itself against South Africa’s allegation that the war with Hamas amounts to genocide against Palestinians at the United Nations’ top court Friday.
Israel strongly denies the claim, and a lawyer in the International Court of Justice courtroom said people were "weaponizing" the term genocide.
Although the case is likely to take years to resolve, South Africa is asking the ICJ to order an immediate suspension of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The Oct. 7 Hamas attack from Gaza into southern Israel that triggered the war killed around 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage by militants.
Israel’s air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people, some 70% of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Meanwhile pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside of United Nations' top court on Friday as Israel got set to defend itself in the hearing.
Protesters outside the International Court of Justice chanted “Free Palestine” and “Viva South Africa” while holding Palestinian flags and placards that read “Stop bombing Gaza”.
Israel often boycotts international tribunals and U.N. investigations, saying they are unfair and biased.
But, in a sign of how seriously they regard the case, Israeli leaders have taken the rare step of sending a legal team and engaging with the ICJ to defend their reputation.