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The International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands. Picture: DURSUN AYDEMIR/GETTY IMAGES
The International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands. Picture: DURSUN AYDEMIR/GETTY IMAGES

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold public hearings on allegations of Israel’s noncompliance with previous court directives, it said on Tuesday, days after SA lodged an urgent application accusing Israel of violating orders in its ongoing genocide case.

The ICJ had previously mandated Israel to moderate its use of force and ensure the passage of humanitarian aid in Gaza, particularly Rafah, the last sanctuary for 1.5-million Palestinians. SA sought a further measure on Friday in response to severe famine affecting Palestine. 

It will be the first hearings between SA and Israel at The Hague since January. The hearings could shed light on the intricate legalities and the broader implications of this dispute.

The case has garnered widespread international attention, with more than 100 UN member states expressing support. It has also polarised global opinion, with the ANC reaffirming its stance on Palestine. 

The case started after an attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 2023. A reported 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 kidnapped. Israel responded with an assault on Gaza, killing more than 30,000 people by March, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel maintains it is “making every effort to limit harm to the non-involved”.

SA says Israel has violated the Genocide Convention to which both countries are signatories. In January, the majority of the ICJ agreed that SA’s claim of genocide was “plausible” and ordered Israel to take effective measures to limit violence and allow for humanitarian aid.

By March, SA had requested and obtained two additional urgent measures regarding provision of food into Palestine, due to “famine [that] is setting in”. Israel was ordered to allow “urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance”.

On Friday, SA filed its third urgent additional application, in light of Israel’s latest offensive into Rafah, which housed the last remaining medical facilities and crossings.

Last hospital

“Rafah is the last population centre in Gaza that has not been substantially destroyed by Israel,” SA said in court papers, “as such [it is] the last refuge for Palestinians in Gaza.” A total 1.5-million “displaced” people are in Rafah.

By last week, the last remaining hospital was “no longer functional” indicating a “point of no return for Gaza’s already broken health system”.

“Israel’s military assault and operation are killing the Palestinian people of Gaza,” SA argued, “while Israel is simultaneously starving them and deliberately denying them humanitarian aid and the necessities of life. Those who have survived are facing imminent death now, and an order from the court is needed to ensure their survival.”

SA says the court must order Israel to “withdraw and cease” its military operations in Rafah.

“Despite repeated orders by the court, Israel has not changed its conduct.” Indeed, SA says, it has “doubled down”, violating the court and international law.

Speaking to Business Day, Gerhard Kemp, law professor at the University of the West of England, Bristol, who previously taught in SA, said: “SA’s applications and submissions speak to a sincere effort to protect the people of Gaza.”

Describing the implications, Kemp said “the ICJ could order further provisional measures, including a ceasefire, or a stop to Israel’s assault on Rafah, which would be quite extraordinary”.

He also said “the urgency and the new facts go to the heart of the genocide question and Israel’s continued policies and military offensive”.

On Tuesday, the ICJ issued a statement indicating it would hold public hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague on Thursday and Friday. It will be the first time Israel has had to make oral presentations since the January case.

Expressed support

Trinity College, Dublin, law professor Mike Becker, who previously worked at the ICJ, said on social media Israel’s experienced lawyers having to answer questions is “the greatest value” that can be drawn from SA’s recent application.  

In January, SA’s case drew “disgust” from US politicians, who said it was “unfounded”.

However, international relations minister Naledi Pandor dismissed such criticism at a recent Brazilian foreign ministry event. “As members of the international community,” she said in April, “we cannot be spectators of impunity and blatant disregard for international law.”

On Monday, the ANC met several international Muslim organisations, including the International Union of Muslim Scholars, who were on a “thanksgiving mission to acknowledge the ANC and the people of SA for their solidarity with the people of Palestine”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who will stand in the upcoming elections, said the ANCs position on Palestine has been consistent since Nelson Mandela's presidency.

Israel has yet to respond in writing to SA’s application but will respond in The Hague on Friday.

moosat@businesslive.co.za

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