February 24, 2024

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Israel calls South Africa's claims of genocide in Gaza “deeply distorted”

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Israel has rejected South Africa's allegations before the International Court of Justice that it was carrying out genocide against Palestinians during the war in Gaza, describing them as “deeply distorted.”

South Africa brought the case under the 1948 Genocide Convention, arguing that Israel was committing genocide by killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious physical and mental harm and imposing on them “conditions of life intended to destroy them physically.”

In its submission to the court on Thursday, South Africa said the Israeli attack killed 1% of Gaza's population and wounded one in four Gazans, and said Israel had a “genocidal intent” that was “clear from the manner in which it proceeded”. [its] A military attack is being carried out.”

However, on the second day of proceedings in The Hague, Israel's legal team insisted that the country adhered to international law, and said that South Africa's case relied on a “deliberate, taken out of context and manipulative description of the reality of the current hostilities.”

“Attempting to use the term genocide as a weapon against Israel in the current context is not just telling a grossly distorted story to the court, it is more than just emptying the word of its unique power and special meaning,” said Tal Becker, legal advisor to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. The ministry said on Friday.

“It undermines the object and purpose of the Convention itself, with consequences for all states that seek to defend themselves against those who display total contempt for life and the law.”

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Woman crying over body bags
The war waged by Israel against Hamas resulted in the deaths of more than 23,000 people, according to Palestinian officials. © AFP/Getty Images

The legal team also stressed the brutality of Hamas's attack on October 7, when its fighters began the war by storming Israel from the Palestinian territories, killing 1,200 people and taking another 240 hostage, according to Israeli officials.

“They tortured children in front of their parents, burned people, including infants, alive, and systematically raped and mutilated dozens of women, men and children,” Baker said.

The Israeli retaliatory attack on Gaza led to the deaths of more than 23,000 people, according to Palestinian officials, as well as the displacement of 1.9 million of the Strip’s 2.3 million residents, and rendered large areas of the Strip uninhabitable.

In its submissions to the court on Thursday, South Africa cited numerous statements by Israeli officials that it said were “evidence of ongoing and ongoing genocide.” These comments included comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referring to the biblical story of the complete destruction of Amalek by the Israelis, and the Heritage Minister's suggestion that a nuclear strike on Gaza is an option.

But the Israeli legal team claimed that Israel was waging a war of self-defense in the wake of the Hamas attack, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties, despite the fact that Hamas was stationed in civilian areas and was allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

It also rejected the suggestion that comments made by Netanyahu and other senior officials proved that Israel had genocidal intent, arguing that they did not reflect official government policy, and that some of the figures cited by South Africa had no say in war policy. .

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Malcolm Shaw, another member of the Israeli legal team, said: “Some of the comments that South Africa refers to are clearly rhetorical and were made in the wake of an event that deeply shocked Israel, but they cannot be considered a claim for genocide.”

“They express pain and the necessity of regaining control over the lands of Israel. . . Safety for its citizens.”

As part of its application, South Africa asked the court to impose a variety of emergency measures on Israel, including “the immediate suspension of its military operations in and against Gaza”; Refrain from “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”; and “take all reasonable measures” to prevent genocide.

The Israeli legal team called on the court to reject the request, arguing that these measures would make it impossible for Israel to defend itself against Hamas and rescue the approximately 130 hostages believed to remain in Gaza.

“[South Africa] “Her request seeks to frustrate Israel’s natural right to defend itself, to allow Hamas not only to get away with the murder it committed, but to render Israel defenseless while Hamas continues to commit it,” Baker said.

The court is expected to decide whether or not to impose emergency measures in the coming weeks. A final decision on this issue is likely to take years.