Israelis cautiously embrace ‘routine’ as Gaza war nears 100 days

THE HAGUE: Israel on Friday rejected as false and “grossly distorted” accusations brought by South Africa at the UN’s top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against the Palestinian population.
It called on judges to dismiss South Africa’s request to halt its offensive, saying to do so would leave it defenseless.
South Africa, which filed the lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in December, asked judges in The Hague on Thursday to impose emergency measures ordering Israel to immediately halt the offensive.
It said Israel’s aerial and ground offensive — which has laid waste to much of the enclave and killed more than 23,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities — aimed to bring about “the destruction of the population” of Gaza.
The Israeli foreign ministry’s legal adviser, Tal Becker, told the court that South Africa’s interpretation of events was “grossly distorted.”
“If there were acts of genocide, they have been perpetrated against Israel,” he said. “Hamas seeks genocide against Israel.”
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.”
Israel launched its war in Gaza after a cross-border rampage on Oct. 7 by militants from Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction. Israeli officials said 1,200 people were killed, mainly civilians, and 240 taken hostage back to Gaza.
“The appalling suffering of civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, is first and foremost the result of Hamas’ strategy,” Becker said, saying that Israel had a right to defend itself.
Hamas denies Israeli allegations that its militants hide among civilians, who account for most of the casualties in Gaza.
“Israel is in a war of defense against Hamas, not against the Palestinian people,” Becker said. “The key component of genocide, the intent to destroy a people in whole or in part, is totally lacking.”

’Genocide’
Israel argued that this meant the court has no jurisdiction under the Genocide Convention to order it to halt its military actions in Gaza.
“This is no genocide, South Africa tells us only half the story,” lawyer Malcolm Shaw said.
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.
Palestinian backers with flags marched through The Hague and watched proceedings on a giant screen in front of the Peace Palace. As the Israeli delegation spoke in court, they chanted: “Liar! Liar!“
Asked what she thought of Israel’s arguments that the Gaza campaign was a matter of self-defense, Neen Haijjawi, a Palestinian who recently came to Netherlands said: “How can an occupier that’s been oppressing people for 75 years say it’s self-defense?“
Israeli supporters were holding a separate gathering of family members of hostages taken by Hamas.
Israel has said South Africa was acting as a mouthpiece for Islamist Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, Britain and several other nations. South Africa has rejected that accusation.
Since Israeli forces started their offensive, nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes at least once, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe.
Post-apartheid South Africa has long advocated the Palestinian cause, a relationship forged when the African National Congress’ struggle against white-minority rule was supported by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization.
“My grandfather always regarded the Palestinian struggle as the greatest moral issue of our time,” Mandla Mandela, a grandson of the late South Africa president Nelson Mandela, said at a rally in support of the Palestinians in Cape Town.