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‘History will judge you mercilessly,’ Israel tells Pretoria as spat over conflict heads to the Hague

todayJanuary 3, 2024 106 1

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Israel has slammed South Africa for hauling the nation to the Hague for its role in the war that’s been raging since October 7, when militant group, Hamas, ambushed America’s top trading partner and staunch ally, killing about 1 200 Israelis.

More than 200 others, including migrants, were taken to the Gaza Strip as captives or hostages.

These action led to a devastating retaliation from Israel, which released over 6 000 bombs on targets in Gaza during the first six days after the attack, killing thousands of Palestinians and causing widespread destruction to infrastructure in Palestinian territories.

To date, at least 20 674 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have reportedly been killed in the retaliatory attacks.

About 85% of the civilian population in Gaza has reportedly been displaced.

Amid a global outcry over the war, South Africa on Friday became the first country in the world to lodge papers in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asking for an urgent order declaring that Israel is in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its crackdown against Hamas.

Rejecting the claims as baseless – Israel has confirmed that it will be appearing before the court.

The country’s government spokesperson, Eylon Levy, told an online briefing that Israel will be heading to the Hague to dispel “South Africa’s absurd blood libel.”

Listing a series of measures Israel’s military has taken to minimise harm to non-combatants, Levy said Hamas bore full moral responsibility for the war it started and was “waging from inside and underneath hospitals, schools, mosques, homes and UN facilities.”

He insinuated that South Africa was complicit in Hamas’ crimes against Israelis.

“We assure South Africa’s leaders, history will judge you, and it will judge you without mercy,” said Levy.

Israel has repeatedly also accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields, in some cases by locating operations bases under hospitals. A charge Hamas has denied.

The hearing, before the ICJ, will begin next week Thursday and end on Friday. The International Criminals Court (ICC) is also investigating war crimes claims against Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unlike the ICC, which pursues private individuals, the ICJ, is the United Nations’ judicial organ for resolving disputes between states. It is sometimes referred to as the World Court.

Citizens of the world have taken to social media in reaction to the unprecedented move by South Africa.

WHO under fire

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also been vocal against Israel’s attacks on health facilities, the Israeli government is accusing the UN agency of hypocrisy.

WHO estimates that there are 13 partially functioning hospitals, two minimally functioning ones, and 21 that are not functioning at all in Gaza.

Due to the large number of people moving to mostly to the south, the organisation says it’s concerned that this will further strain health facilities in that region, which are already struggling to meet the population’s immense needs.

“This forced mass movement of people will also lead to more overcrowding, increased risk of infectious diseases, and make it even harder to deliver humanitarian aid, said Dr Rik Peeperkorn, WHO Representative in WHO’s office for the West Bank and Gaza.

UNICEF Spokesperson, James Elder, has described Gaza as the most dangerous place to be a child.

United Nations comes to the table

Many hope the ICJ will order Israel to stop its hostilities against Palestine.

A move that will be a breath of fresh air to the United Nations, which has been trying, in vain, to find a permanent ceasefire to the conflict.

At some point, UN secretary general, Antonio Gutteres, invoked the rare Article 99 of the UN’s charter in a bid to press the Security Council over the crisis in the war-torn Gaza strip.

Gutteres reiterated his call for a humanitarian cease fire, saying the situation was fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for the Palestinians.

Defending Israel in the matter, the SA Zionist Federation, among other interest groups, accused the United Nations of having failed to condemn Hamas for its actions against the Israelis.

 

Last month, the United Nations Security Council finally approved a resolution calling for more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza after a week of delays.

Russia and the US abstained from the vote, which did not demand a ceasefire.

In October, Washington had blocked a draft Security Council resolution for a humanitarian pause in the fighting, with some slamming the move as culpability in the onslaught in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu defiant

Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, has again dismissed any possibility of a two-state solution in the impasse with Palestine.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has insisted that the war will continue in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed and the territory demilitarised.

Netanyahu has reiterated his vow to crush Hamas in response and launched a retaliatory military campaign, including extensive aerial bombardment and a siege of the territory.

However, there have been mixed reactions to his utterances and actions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Netanyahu to Hitler, and likened Israel’s attacks on Gaza to the treatment of Jewish people by the Nazis.

Ceasefire talks 

In November, a temporary truce was reached where hostages were released from both sides. However the truce collapsed after seven days and Israel resumed bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

In a fresh round of talks, Hamas last week rejected an Israeli proposal for a week-long truce, which will allow for the release of some 40 hostages.

In more efforts to bring peace to the territory, a Hamas delegation went to Cairo to discuss a new ceasefire plan that includes the Islamic Jihad, which is also battling Israeli forces in Gaza.

According to reports, Cairo’s three-stage plan provides for renewable ceasefires, a release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and ultimately a ceasefire to end the war.

It remains to be seen how this war, which experts say threatens regional instability, will play out and if there will be a permanent ceasefire amid concerns that women and children continue to bear the brunt of the brutal conflict.

Written by: Nonhlanhla Harris

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