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S.Africa rebukes Israeli arguments at ICJ hearing on Gaza genocide case

Presiding judge Nawaf Salam, third from right, opens the hearings at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, May 16, 2024   -  
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Peter Dejong/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


Israel defended its military operation in Gaza as the International Court of Justice on Friday held a third round of hearings on emergency measures requested by South Africa, which wants the court to order a cease-fire.

Israel told the U.N.'s top court in The Hague that South Africa's case “makes a mockery of the heinous charge of genocide".

But South Africa's representatives said "what we heard today was not really an engagement on the facts."

"Some engagement on the facts, but not really rebutting what South Africa is trying to assert is essentially trying to detract and blame, you know, or cast political aspersions on the intentions of South Africa," said Zane Dangor, Director-General of South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

South Africa told the court on Thursday that the situation in the beleaguered enclave has reached “a new and horrific stage” and urged judges to order a half to Israeli military operations.

Lawyer Tamar Kaplan-Tourgeman defended Israel’s conduct in Gaza, saying it had allowed in fuel and medication.

Israel’s delegation was noticeably smaller than during previous hearings.

According to Israel’s deputy attorney general Gilad Noam, a number of their lawyers were not available on such short notice.

The country was informed on Monday that hearings would be held on Thursday and Friday.

South Africa has submitted four requests for the ICJ to investigate Israel.

The court has already found that there is a “real and imminent risk” to the Palestinian people in Gaza by Israel’s military operations.

According to the latest request, the country says Israel’s military incursion in Rafah threatens the “very survival of Palestinians in Gaza.”

In January, judges ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the panel stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive.

ICJ judges have broad powers to order a cease-fire and other measures, though the court doesn’t have its own enforcement apparatus.

A 2022 order by the court demanding that Russia halt its full-scale invasion of Ukraine has so far gone unheeded.

Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people have been displaced since fighting began.

The war began with a Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which Palestinian militants killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, Gaza’s Health Ministry says.

AP video shot by Mark Carlson