Israel tells top UN court it is doing all it can to protect civilians in Gaza

17 May 2024, 15:54

World Court Israel Palestinians
World Court Israel Palestinians. Picture: PA

The International Court of Justice held a third round of hearings on emergency measures requested by South Africa.

Israel has strongly denied charges of genocide, telling the United Nations’ top court it was doing everything it could to protect the civilian population during its military operation in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) wrapped up a third round of hearings on emergency measures requested by South Africa, which says Israel’s military incursion in the southern city of Rafah threatens the “very survival of Palestinians in Gaza” and has asked the court to order a ceasefire.

Tamar Kaplan-Tourgeman, one of Israel’s legal team, defended the country’s conduct, saying it had allowed in fuel and medication to the beleaguered enclave.

“Israel takes extraordinary measures in order to minimise the harm to civilians in Gaza,” she told The Hague-based court.

Judges enter the International Court of Justice
Judges enter the International Court of Justice (Peter Dejong/AP)

A protester shouting “liars” briefly interrupted Ms Kaplan-Tourgeman’s final remarks. The hearing was paused for less than a minute while security guards escorted a woman from the public gallery.

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 halt to Israeli military operations.

The court was holding a third round of hearings on emergency measures requested by South Africa since it first filed its genocide case at the end of last year.

According to the latest request, South Africa 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.

Judges will now deliberate on the request and are expected to issue a decision in the next few weeks.

World Court Israel Palestinians
Israel’s deputy attorney general Gilad Noam, left, at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands (Peter Dejong/AP)

ICJ judges have broad powers to order a ceasefire and other measures, though the court does not 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 the fighting began.

The war began with a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 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, without distinguishing between civilians and combatants in its count.

South Africa initiated proceedings in December 2023 and sees the legal campaign as rooted in issues central to its identity.

Its governing party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel’s policies in Gaza and the occupied West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule, which restricted most black people to “homelands”. Apartheid ended in 1994.

By Press Association

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