Israel urges UN court to reject South Africa’s request for more emergency orders in genocide case

Destroyed buildings stand in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Monday, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Destroyed buildings stand in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Monday, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Israel has urged the top U.N. court to reject the latest request by South Africa for interim orders to prevent starvation in Gaza as part of a case accusing Israel of breaching the Genocide Convention with its military offensive against Hamas.

In a written response published Monday by the International Court of Justice, Israel said that claims by South Africa in its request filed earlier this month are “wholly unfounded in fact and law, morally repugnant, and represent an abuse both of the Genocide Convention and of the Court itself.”

Israel’s response was published on the day that the U.N. food agency said that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza, where 70% of the remaining population is experiencing catastrophic hunger, and that a further escalation of the war could push around half of Gaza’s total population to the brink of starvation.

The food agency’s statement came less than two weeks after South Africa urged the world court “to do what is within its power to save Palestinians in Gaza from genocidal starvation.”

Israel fervently denies that its military campaign in Gaza amounts to a breach of the Genocide Convention. It acknowledged in its written response to South Africa’s request that there are “also tragic and agonizing civilian casualties in this war. These realities are the painful result of intensive armed hostilities that Israel did not start and did not want.”

Israel also said in its response that it is “doing a great deal to alleviate such suffering in these very challenging circumstances.”

No date has been set for judges to rule on the South African request.

At hearings in January, lawyers for Israel argued that the war in Gaza was a legitimate defense of its people and that it was Hamas militants who were guilty of genocide.

After the hearings, the court ordered Israel in late January to do all it could to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive triggered by the deadly Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel by Hamas.

Israel said that South Africa has presented no reason to change that so-called provisional measures order.

“South Africa’s request of 6 March 2024 shows nothing more than a continuation of elements already considered by the Court when issuing the Order of 26 January 2024,” the Israeli response said.

The court last month rejected an earlier request by South Africa for more provisional measures to safeguard Rafah, but also stressed that Israel must respect the earlier measures that imposed at a preliminary stage in the landmark genocide case.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said Monday that impending famine in Gaza was “entirely man-made” as “starvation is used as a weapon of war.”

“Trucks are stopped. People are dying, while the land crossings are artificially closed,” he said. ___

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