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Netanyahu rejects South Africa's case against Israel as UN court's hearing progress

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday Jan. 7, 2024.   -  
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Ronen Zvulun/AP

South Africa

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday it was a "twisted world" in response South Africa's genocide case against Israel that began opening statements at the International Court of Justice.

The United Nations’ top court began hearings Thursday on South Africa’s allegation that Israel’s war with Hamas amounts to genocide against Palestinians. Israel strongly denies the claim.

Although the case is likely to take years to resolve, South Africa is asking the International Court of Justice to order an immediate suspension of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“The hypocrisy of South Africa knows no bounds," Netanyahu said in an address to the media from Tel Aviv.

"Where was South Africa when millions of people were murdered and displaced from their homes in Syria and Yemen, and by whom? By the partners of Hamas," he said.

Netanyahu said Israel vowed to continue fighting Hamas and the country’s right to defend itself, and that the Israeli army was “doing everything it could to avoid harming those who are uninvolved.”

South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola outlined his country's case at the United Nations’ top court Thursday. Alongside other lawyers, South Africa said during the opening arguments that the latest Gaza war is part of a decadeslong oppression of the Palestinians by Israel.

They asked judges to impose binding preliminary orders on Israel, including an immediate halt to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

Minister Lamola said the Oct. 7 Hamas attack from Gaza into southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage by militants is "no justification for any form of genocide."

"We believe that without the intervention of this court from the international community, we will see the total destruction of the Palestinian people in Gaza," he added.

Israel’s air, ground and sea assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

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