Israel denounces South African plea to UN court over Gaza crisis

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Israel has hit out at what it called an “outrageous” and “morally repugnant” South African plea to the UN’s top court urging new emergency measures in light of “starvation” in Gaza.

Early this month, Pretoria petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for so-called “provisional measures” to stop “widespread starvation” resulting from Israel’s Gaza offensive.

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In its response published by the court Monday, Israel lashed South Africa for its “bellicose and offensive tone” and accusations it described as “outrageous and categorically denied.”

Israel said it remained “committed to the observance of its international legal obligations” and had taken several measures to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza.

The war erupted after Hamas militants attacked Israel from Gaza on October 7, resulting in about 1,160 deaths -- mostly civilians -- according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

The militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel has carried out a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive that Gaza’s health ministry says has killed at least 31,726 people, most of them women and children.

At the ICJ, South Africa charges that Israel is perpetrating a genocide in Gaza, an accusation vehemently denied by Israel.

Pretoria dragged Israel before the court, saying it was in breach of its obligations under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, and urging the court to order a ceasefire.

In a ruling in mid-January that made headlines worldwide, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent genocide during its Gaza offensive.

The court also ruled at the time that Israel must allow aid into Gaza to ease the desperate humanitarian situation there.

South Africa followed up with a request for fresh measures a few weeks later, citing an announced incursion into Rafah -- but the court declined to impose additional measures.

Undeterred, Pretoria tried again -- this time urging the court to impose emergency measures to “save the Palestinian people in Gaza already dying of starvation.”

Israel said in its defence published Monday that South Africa was “engaged in an abusive exploitation of the Court’s procedures.”

“Request follows request with barely time to draw breath. It (South Africa) apparently hopes that incessant requests will eventually lead to the Court to relent and to grant it what it seeks,” said Israel.

Israel listed various actions it said it had undertaken during the conflict: “humanitarian initiatives”, “access to humanitarian supplies”, “humanitarian pauses in fighting.”

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South Africa’s “shrill and repeated submissions” cannot explain how these actions “can possibly be reconciled with a genocidal intent to destroy a group in whole or in part,” concluded Israel’s report.

It asked the court to dismiss the request, which it said “hinges on a misrepresentation of reality and a sensationalist and obsessive attempt to accuse Israel of the most egregious crimes regardless of the law or the facts.”

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