“The evidence of genocidal intent is not only chilling, it is also overwhelming and incontrovertible,” Ngcukaitobi said.
The 1948 Genocide Convention, enacted in the wake of the mass murder of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
“Every day, there is mounting, irreparable loss of life, property, dignity, and humanity for the Palestinian people,” said Adila Hassim, advocate of South Africa’s high court.
“Nothing will stop the suffering, except an order from this court.”
Post-apartheid South Africa has long defended the Palestinian cause, a relationship forged when the African National Congress’ struggle against white-minority rule was cheered on by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation.
South Africa concluded its arguments by requesting emergency measures to stop the war, and the court will listen to Israel’s response on Friday.
The court is expected to rule on possible emergency measures later this month but will not rule at that time on the genocide allegations – those proceedings could take years.
The ICJ’s decisions are final and without appeal – but the court has no way to enforce them.
Israel says allegations are baseless
Since Israeli forces launched their offensive, nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes at least once, causing a humanitarian catastrophe.
Israel has said it is waging war against Palestinian militants, not the Palestinian people.
In a statement, Israel’s foreign ministry accused South Africa of rank hypocrisy, saying it had ignored “the fact that Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, murdered, executed, massacred, raped and kidnapped Israeli citizens, just because they were Israelis, in an attempt to carry out genocide.”
In its court filings, South Africa cites Israel’s failure to provide food, water, medicine and other essential assistance to Gaza, where Hamas seized power in 2007, two years after Israel ended a 38-year occupation of the enclave.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that the group was following the court proceedings with great interest.
“Justice is going to be tested today,” he said. “We urge the court to reject all pressure and take a decision to criminalise the Israeli occupation and stop the aggression on Gaza.”
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