South Africa has formally applied with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to commence proceedings against Israel over allegations of genocide related to its actions in the war against Hamas in Gaza. The ICJ confirmed this development on Friday.
The application contends that Israel is “in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention” and asserts that the actions and inactions of Israel are genocidal, carried out with specific intent to destroy Palestinians in Gaza, as stated by the ICJ.
Since October 7, more than 21,507 people have lost their lives in Gaza, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in the enclave. Among the casualties are at least 308 individuals who sought refuge in United Nations shelters, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
Israel has promptly rejected South Africa’s claims and its application to the ICJ. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel accused South Africa of advocating for the destruction of the State of Israel and emphasized that the claim lacks both factual and legal basis. Israel affirmed its commitment to international law, asserting that its military efforts are directed solely against the Hamas terrorist organization and its affiliates.
Israel’s military actions in Gaza, responding to Hamas’ terror attacks and kidnapping spree on October 7, have resulted in widespread devastation in the densely populated coastal strip. US President Joe Biden characterized Israel’s actions as “indiscriminate bombing” earlier this month. Notably, nearly half of Israel’s air-to-ground munitions used in the conflict have been unguided or “dumb bombs,” according to US intelligence assessment.
Critics argue that such unguided munitions pose a greater threat to civilians and may violate international humanitarian law, which prohibits indiscriminate bombing. Proponents of Israel’s campaign contend that heavy munitions are necessary to destroy Hamas’ underground tunnel infrastructure.
The conflict has also seen an expansion of Israeli operations in southern Gaza, with reports of destroyed tunnels and hideout apartments of Hamas leaders. The situation has prompted grave concern from South Africa, which highlighted the indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants in Gaza.
South Africa, a State Party to the Genocide Convention, expressed its treaty obligation to prevent genocide. The application to the ICJ underscores ongoing reports of international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the possibility of acts meeting the threshold of genocide in the context of the ongoing massacres in Gaza, as stated by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.