THE HAGUE, Netherlands: South Africa formally accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians and pleaded with the United Nations’ top court to order an immediate halt to Israeli military operations in Gaza.
Israel rejected the accusations of genocide as false and baseless. Israel launched its attack after a cross-border rampage on October 7 by Hamas militants in which Israeli officials said 1,200 people were killed, mainly civilians, and 240 taken hostage back to Gaza.
South Africa has long defended the Palestinian cause, a relationship forged when the African National Congress' struggle against white-minority rule was cheered on by Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation.
It is noted that rulings are theoretically legally binding on parties to the ICJ - which include Israel and South Africa - but in practice, unenforceable.
In 2022, the ICJ ordered Russia to "immediately suspend military operations" in Ukraine - but the order was ignored.
According to experts, the court is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month but will not rule at that time on the genocide allegations - those proceedings could take years.
Under international law, genocide is defined as committing one or more acts with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
Notably, the International Court of Justice, established after World War II to settle disputes between countries, is the main judicial body of the United Nations.