The Amsterdam-based court will open the hearings on 23 February and set a 30 January deadline for the submission of written statements.

   

It was set up to settle legal disputes between states and give advisory opinions.

 

An opinion by the court would add to diplomatic pressure on Israel and carries more legal weight than a General Assembly resolution, which is nonbinding.

 

UN vote 

 

Earlier in December, the UN General Assembly voted for a Palestinian-initiated resolution to ask The Hague-based International Court of Justice - also known as the World Court - whether Israel was legally obliged to tear down the apartheid wall it was constructing in the Palestinian territory.

 

Palestinians say the wall, which juts deep into the West Bank, is a land grab by Israel and prejudges a border of a future state.

 

Israel says the 150-km structure of fences, razor wire, concrete walls and trenches, is needed to keep out human bombers.