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Top UN Court to Hear Genocide Case Against Israel Next Week


FILE - The building of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on Dec. 9, 2019.
FILE - The building of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on Dec. 9, 2019.

The United Nation's top court will hear submissions next week from South Africa and Israel after Pretoria opened a case for what it called Israel's genocidal acts in Gaza.

South Africa wants the International Court of Justice to urgently order Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza, in a case that Israel rejected "with disgust."

The United States on Wednesday criticized South Africa for bringing a genocide case, rejecting accusations against Israel over its war in Gaza.

"This submission is meritless, counterproductive and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a briefing.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said separately that from a U.S. assessment, "We have not at this point seen acts that constitute genocide."

"Genocide is, of course, a heinous atrocity," Miller told reporters. "Those are allegations that should not make be made lightly."

The International Court of Justice "will hold public hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague ... in proceedings instituted by South Africa against Israel," on January 11 and January 12, the court said in a statement.

The South African application, filed last Friday, related to alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Genocide Convention, saying that "Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza."

Israel rejected the charge, with Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat writing on X, "Israel rejects with disgust the blood libel spread by South Africa and its application" to the ICJ. "Blood libel" is a reference to ancient antisemitic conspiracies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel displayed "unparalleled morality" in the Gaza war as he, too, dismissed South Africa's charge.

South Africa, among other urgent measures, is asking the court to order that "Israel shall immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza" and that both countries "take all reasonable measures within their power to prevent genocide."

Israel launched a relentless military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian militants carried out an attack on southern Israel on October 7. The attack left 1,200 people dead, according to Israel.

Israel's ongoing Gaza offensive has killed more than 22,300 people, mostly women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

South Africa will present its arguments on January 11, while Israel is set to counter on January 12.

A ruling by the ICJ on the request for emergency measures is expected to follow within weeks, but the case could still take months, or even years.

Set up after World War II, the ICJ is the U.N.'s highest legal body and rules in disputes between countries.

Decisions are legally binding, but the court has little power to enforce them.