Israel Defends Actions at ICJ: "We are Doing Everything to Protect Civilians"

At the end of the Israeli representative's speech, a protester in the hall briefly interrupted Kaplan-Turgeman's last words by shouting "liars"

by Sededin Dedovic
Israel Defends Actions at ICJ: "We are Doing Everything to Protect Civilians"
© DW News / Youtube channel

Israel today again denied allegations of genocide, stating before judges of the United Nations' highest court that it is doing everything possible to protect the civilian population during its military operation in Gaza, reports AP.

The International Court of Justice concluded the third round of hearings on urgent measures requested by South Africa, which argues that the Israeli military incursion in the southern city of Rafah threatens the "survival of Palestinians in Gaza" and asked the court to order a ceasefire.

Tamar Kaplan-Tourgeman from Israel’s legal team defended the state's actions, stating that it has allowed fuel and medicine into the besieged enclave. "Israel is taking extraordinary measures to minimize harm to civilians in Gaza," she said in The Hague.

A protester in the room briefly interrupted Kaplan-Tourgeman's final statement by shouting "liars." The hearing was paused for less than a minute while security escorted the woman out of the public gallery.

Tamar Kaplan-Tourgeman from Israel’s legal team© DW News / Youtube channel

On Thursday, South Africa told the court that the situation in the besieged enclave had reached "a new and horrifying stage" and urged the judges to order a halt to Israeli military operations.

Vusi Madonsela, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands, said that South Africa returned to the court to "do what it can to stop the genocide," which he claims has almost "wiped Gaza off the map" and "shocked the conscience of humanity." Madonsela also stated that Israel, since being ordered by the ICJ to implement measures to prevent genocidal acts, has "deliberately violated the court's binding orders," escalating attacks on Palestinians.

The severity of the attacks necessitates "urgent and swift actions by the court to preserve the rights of the Palestinian people, a responsibility that South Africa takes seriously." In his closing remarks, Madonsela listed three provisional measures South Africa is requesting from the court as "extremely urgent." According to the latest request, South Africa states that the Israeli military incursion in Rafah threatens the "survival of Palestinians in Gaza." In January, judges ordered Israel to do everything within its power to prevent deaths, destruction, and any acts of genocide in Gaza, but the court did not order an end to the offensive.

The judges of the International Court of Justice have broad authority to order ceasefires and other measures, although the court lacks its enforcement apparatus. The court's 2022 order for Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine has so far gone unheeded.

The majority of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been displaced since the fighting began.

A child injured during Israeli airstrikes during current war in Gaza Strip© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

South Africa initiated proceedings in December 2023 and considers the legal campaign rooted in issues central to its identity.

The ruling party, the African National Congress, has long compared Israel's policies in Gaza and the occupied West Bank to its own history under the apartheid regime of white minority rule over the black majority. Apartheid ended in 1994.

The International Criminal Court investigates individuals exclusively. It is active only if a person is suspected of being responsible for one of four core crimes: genocide, severe war crimes, crimes against humanity, or aggressive war while holding a leadership position.

Since 2021, the ICC has been investigating violence in Gaza during the summer of 2014, as well as possible war crimes by allegedly responsible parties in Israel. According to its own information, the Criminal Court is conducting investigations under the same charge against Hamas fighters.

There are also ongoing investigations into violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. These investigations should also consider the latest developments in the war: the conflict began after the militant Islamist group Hamas killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped over 240 hostages in Israel on October 7, 2023.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by numerous Western countries, including EU member states and the US. According to Hamas-led authorities in Gaza, more than 34,000 people have been killed in Israel’s subsequent military action in response to that attack.

These figures cannot be independently verified. The ICC investigation should not be confused with the genocide charge brought against Israel by some states. South Africa, among others, has accused Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) due to the high number of deaths in the Gaza Strip war.

This court, also in The Hague, does not investigate individuals nor issue arrest warrants. It is responsible solely for disputes between states. The current hearings are just the beginning of this trial, which is likely to continue for months or years.

A cease-fire is needed in Gaza in order to independently investigate this truly bloody war that has claimed the lives of 16,000 children.