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Genocide claims grossly distorted, says Israel

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14 January 2024, The Age/ Reuters, AP, by Anthony Deutsch

Israel has rejected as ‘‘a grossly distorted story’’ accusations brought by South Africa at the United Nations’ top court that its military operation in Gaza is a genocide campaign aimed at wiping out the Palestinian population.

Israel told the International Court of Justice that its war in Gaza was a legitimate defence of its people and that it was Hamas militants who were guilty of genocide. It called on judges to dismiss South Africa’s request to halt the Gaza offensive, saying it would leave Israel defenceless.

A day earlier, South Africa argued that Israel’s aerial and ground offensive, which has laid waste to much of the narrow coastal enclave, aimed to bring about ‘‘the destruction of the population’’ of the Gaza Strip. Local authorities estimate more than 23,000 people have been killed.

However, South Africa’s interpretation of events was wrong, Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, told the court.

‘‘If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel,’’ he said, adding: ‘‘Hamas seeks genocide against Israel.’’

Becker told a packed auditorium at the Palace of Peace in The Hague that Israel was fighting a ‘‘war it did not start and did not want’’.

‘‘In these circumstances, there can hardly be a charge more false and more malevolent than the allegation against Israel of genocide,’’ he added, noting that the horrible suffering of civilians was not enough to level that charge.

Israel launched its all-out war in Gaza after a cross-border rampage on October 7 by Hamas and other militants. Israeli officials said 1200 people were killed, mainly civilians, and 240 taken hostage.

‘‘Israel is in a war of defence against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people, to ensure that they do not succeed,’’ Becker said. However, even when acting in selfdefence, countries are required by international law to follow the rules of war.

As two days of hearings ended, International Court of Justice President Joan E. Donoghue said the court would rule as soon as possible on South Africa’s interim request to halt the fighting.

The court’s decisions are final, without appeal, but it has no way to enforce them.

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Article source: The Age/ Reuters, AP | Anthony Deutsch | 14 January 2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000