Israel accuses South Africa of abusing Genocide Convention to protect Hamas

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Israel castigates South Africa’s latest attempt to have the International Court of Justice order it to halt its campaign against Hamas in Gaza, and accuses Pretoria of abusing the Genocide Convention to protect the Islamist terrorist group.

Earlier this week, South Africa asked the court to order Israel to desist from staging a military offensive in the Gazan city of Rafah, the last major Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave.

Israel insists in its submission that there has been no change in the situation in Gaza since the ICJ heard South Africa’s genocide allegations in January. It describes South Africa’s claims of an “unprecedented military operation” in Rafah on February 11 to rescue two Israeli hostages as an “outrageous distortion,” and asserts that it is Hamas that is demonstrating “contempt for the law” by failing to accede to the ICJ’s call for the immediate and unconditional release of all remaining hostages.

Israel’s response also points out that South Africa’s request for ICJ intervention based on supposed concerns of impending genocide actually cited comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments “that makes clear that any potential military operation is intended to target Hamas battalions in Rafah” and also talked of the necessity of evacuating civilians from the city.

“This announcement is in line with Israel’s enduring commitment under international humanitarian law to minimize harm to civilians, even as Hamas – in its utter contempt for life and for the law – continues its abhorrent strategy of seeking to maximize such civilian harm through its ongoing attacks against Israeli civilians and through its use of Palestinian civilians and civilian objects as shields in Gaza itself,” Israel insisted forcefully in its submission.

Israel said that South Africa’s use of Netanyahu’s statement, which clearly stated that the terror group was Israel’s target, “exposes yet again an intention to abuse the Genocide Convention” and was “evidence of a renewed and cynical effort by South Africa to use provisional measures as a sword, rather than a shield, and to manipulate the Court to protect South Africa’s longtime ally Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization, from Israel’s inherent right and obligation to defend itself, in accordance with the law, from the terrorist assault it faces and to pursue the release of over 130 hostages.”

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