Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to contest South Africa’s accusation that it is committing genocide against Palestinians in its war with Hamas, an Israeli government spokesman says.
South Africa launched the case against Israel on Friday, saying the magnitude of death, destruction and the extent of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip meets the threshold of the 1948 Genocide Convention under international law.
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South Africa also asked the court to order Israel to stop its attacks in Gaza.
A spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused South Africa of “giving political and legal cover” to the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, which triggered the three-month-long war.
“The state of Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice at The Hague to dispel South Africa’s absurd blood libel,” Eylon Levy said.
“We assure South Africa’s leaders, history will judge you, and it will judge you without mercy,” Levy added.
The spokesperson said Hamas was responsible for the war it started and was “waging from inside and underneath hospitals, schools, mosques, homes and UN facilities”.
For decades, South Africa has backed the Palestinian cause for statehood. It has likened the treatment of Palestinians to those of the Black majority in South Africa during the apartheid era, a comparison that Israel vehemently denies.
Clayson Monyela, a spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said in a post on X that lawyers representing South Africa were preparing for the hearing scheduled for January 11 and 12.
The announcement comes as fierce fighting continues in southern Gaza with Israeli forces bombarding the city of Khan Younis from the air and ground.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on Tuesday that Israeli forces hit its headquarters in Khan Younis, resulting in several deaths and injuries among the displaced people who had been sheltering there.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Tuesday that more than 200 people had been killed in 24 hours, taking the death toll from the Israeli assault on Gaza to more than 22,000.