Israel denies genocidal intent at International Court of Justice hearing

Israel declared on Friday before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that it is not out to "destroy" the Palestinian people in Gaza. It claims that Hamas wants genocide and is to blames for the situation in Gaza. According to Israel, it is acting in self-defence. "We are not trying to destroy a people, but to protect a people," said Tal Becker, one of Israel's lawyers.

Becker added that South Africa, which brought the complaint, has "totally distorted" the case and does not reflect reality. "South Africa not only wants Hamas to get away with the killings but also to render Israel defenceless while Hamas attacks," he said.

Israel says it never wanted this war, nor is it out to kill Palestinian civilians. "The suffering of civilians in this war, as in all wars, is tragic and heartbreaking." According to Becker, that is down to Hamas' strategy of entrenching itself in civilian areas, and Israel is doing its best to limit civilian damage.

Becker said in court that Palestinian militants were guilty of massacres, rapes, hostage-taking and torture on 7 October. "These atrocities do not absolve Israel of its duty to abide by the law, but it does show that if there were genocidal acts, they were against Israelis."

Outside the courtroom, hundreds of people took to the streets, including pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups. The groups were kept apart.

South Africa filed the case because it believes Israel is violating the Genocide Convention in its war against Hamas. According to South Africa, no violence justifies Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip. South Africa's legal representative wants the court to order Israel to suspend its military operations immediately.

Hamas killed approximately 1,200 people on 7 October. Over 23,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since then.


Lawyers Tal Becker and Malcolm Shaw, and Gilad Noam, deputy attorney general for International Affairs, at the International Court of Justice © PHOTO REMKO DE WAAL / ANP / AFP

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