Israel condemns claim it doesn’t have right to self defense against Hamas

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

Continuing his opening statement at The Hague, Foreign Ministry legal adviser Tal Becker lambastes South Africa for what he says were its “curated” and “distorted” allegations of genocide against Israel.

He also condemns South Africa’s assertion that Israel does not have the right to self-defense against Hamas.

“If the claim of the applicant now is that in the armed conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel must be denied the ability to defend its citizens, then the absurd upshot of South Africa’s argument is this: Under the guise of the allegation against Israel of genocide, this court is asked to call for an end to operations against the ongoing attacks of an organization that pursues an actual genocidal agenda,” says Becker.

He also points to Hamas’s practice of embedding its military installations and fighters amid civilian infrastructure and of stealing humanitarian supplies as the real source of civilian death and suffering in Gaza.

“Hamas has systematically and unlawfully embedded its military operations, militants, and assets throughout Gaza, within and beneath densely populated civilian areas,” says Becker. “It has built an extensive warren of underground tunnels for its leaders and fighters several hundred miles in length throughout the strip, with thousands of access points and terrorist hubs located in homes, mosques, UN facilities, schools, and, perhaps most shockingly, hospitals. This is not an occasional tactic. It is an integrated, preplanned, extensive, and abhorrent method of warfare.”

Adds Becker: “Israel is committed, as it must be, to comply with the law, but it does so in the face of Hamas’s utter contempt for the law. It is committed, as it must be, to demonstrate humanity. But it does so in the face of Hamas’s utter inhumanity.”

“The key component of genocide — the intention to destroy a people, in whole or in part — is totally lacking,” Becker says.

“What Israel seeks by operating in Gaza is not to destroy a people, but to protect a people — its people, who are under attack on multiple fronts — and to do so in accordance with the law, even as it faces a heartless enemy determined to use that very commitment against it.”

“To maintain the integrity of the Genocide Convention, to maintain its promise and the court’s own role as its guardian,” Becker concludes, “it is respectfully submitted that the application and request should be dismissed for what they are: a libel, designed to deny Israel the right to defend itself, according to the law, from the unprecedented terrorist onslaught it continues to face, and to free the 136 hostages Hamas still holds.”

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