Spain applies to join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at top UN court

Madrid joins handful of countries, along with PA, seeking to boost Pretoria’s allegation at The Hague; Spanish FM: ‘We want peace to return to Gaza and the Middle East’

Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares holds a press conference at his ministry headquarters in Madrid on June 6, 2024. (Thomas Coex/AFP)
Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Albares holds a press conference at his ministry headquarters in Madrid on June 6, 2024. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

Spain on Thursday asked a United Nations court for permission to join South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

South Africa filed its case with the International Court of Justice late last year, alleging that Israel was breaching the genocide convention in its military assault against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

Israel has rejected the accusations of genocide as baseless and says South Africa is acting as an emissary of the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza and seeks to eliminate the Jewish state. It says that the Israel Defense Forces is targeting Hamas terrorists, not Palestinian civilians, but points out that civilian casualties in the fighting are unavoidable as terrorists operate from deep within the population.

The court last month ordered Israel to halt military operations in the southern Gazan city of Rafah that would risk the destruction of the civilian population sheltering there. IDF troops are currently running targeted operations against terror operatives and infrastructure in the area, while around one million of an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians sheltering in the area have already been evacuated.

“We take the decision because of the ongoing military operation in Gaza,” Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in Madrid. “We want peace to return to Gaza and the Middle East, and for that to happen we must all support the court.”

Despite increasing international criticism in recent weeks, the IDF has pushed on with the offensive, asserting that Rafah is the last major remaining Hamas stronghold in the Strip, and suggesting that many of the remaining hostages captured by the terror group on October 7 could be held in the city.

A Spanish fighting bull billboard, is painted with the colors of the Palestinian flag and a writing that reads “free Palestine,” on the outskirts of Madrid, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Libya and the Palestinians are already waiting for the court in The Hague, Netherlands, to grant approval to their requests to join the case. Once admitted to the case, they would be able to make written submissions and speak at public hearings.

Spain’s request is the latest move by the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to support Palestinians.

Spain, Ireland and Norway formally recognized a Palestinian state on May 28 in a coordinated effort by the three Western European nations, in a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “reward for terror.”

Slovenia, a European Union member along with Spain and Ireland, followed suit and recognized the Palestinian state this week.

Over 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the UN — but none of the major Western powers, including the United States, has done so.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares (C), Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide (R) and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin hold a joint press conference at the the Permanent Representation of Spain to the European Union in Brussels on May 27, 2024. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

While Sánchez has condemned Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacre and joined calls for the return of the remaining hostages, he has earned diplomatic backlash from Israel. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that by recognizing a Palestinian state, Sánchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Sánchez’s backing of the Palestinians is generally supported in Spain, where some university students have followed their American counterparts in protesting on campuses. Spaniards will vote in elections for the European Parliament elections on Sunday.

Protestors hold signs reading “Boycott Israel, It worked with South-Africa” as they gather during a an anti-Israel demonstration, in front of the Foreign Affairs ministry in Madrid, on May 27, 2024. (Thomas Coex/AFP)

Preliminary hearings have already been held in the genocide case at the ICJ, but the court is expected to take years to reach a final decision.

Albares said the decision by his government had the immediate objective of adding pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to follow the court’s interim measures to stop bloodshed in Rafah.

“I insist once again that these interim measures must be complied with,” Albares said. “Whether this is genocide or not, that is for the court to decide, and Spain of course will support its decision.”

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 251 hostages amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. Of these, some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals or through self-reporting by families, with the rest of the figure based on Hamas “media sources.” The tolls, which cannot be verified, include some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

A total of 295 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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