Israel prepared to defend itself today at the top U.N. court against accusations of genocide in Gaza, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time publicly rebuffed calls by some right-wing ministers to permanently occupy the enclave, reported Reuters.
As Israel’s war against Hamas militants rages in Gaza, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague was set to hold two days of hearings in a case brought by South Africa in December claiming the war violates the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The hearings will deal exclusively with South Africa’s request for an emergency order that Israel suspend military action in Gaza while the court, also known as the World Court, hears the merits of the case – a process that could take years.
Colombia, Brazil and Malaysia expressed their support of South Africa late on Wednesday.
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters carried out an 7 Oct 2023 cross-border rampage in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 240 abducted.
Since then, Israeli forces have laid waste to much of Gaza, and nearly all its 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes at least once, causing a humanitarian catastrophe. More than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed.
US rejects Israel genocide claims
The United States rejected South Africa’s genocide claims, while urging Israel to do more to protect Palestinian civilians.
“Allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded,” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said in a statement.
“In fact, it is those who are violently attacking Israel who continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.”
Miller defended Israel’s “right to defend itself against Hamas’ terrorist acts”, while adding that Israel must “comply with international humanitarian law” and “look for more ways to prevent civilian harm and to investigate credible allegations of violations of international humanitarian law when they arise.”
On the eve of the hearings, Netanyahu opposed calls from right-wing members of his government, for Palestinians to leave Gaza voluntarily, making way for Israelis to settle there.