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Israel accuses South Africa of aligning with Hamas, distorting facts in ICJ case

The Israeli legal team accused South Africa of distorting the truth and ignoring facts in an effort to help Hamas.
NICK GAMMON/AFP via Getty Images

In response to South Africa's request that the International Court of Justice order Israel to withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip, Israel accused the country on Friday of exploiting the Genocide Convention in order to help Hamas. 

Presenting counter-arguments at the Hague, the Israeli legal team said that South Africa had offered the court a distorted picture of the reality in the Gaza Strip and asked the court to deny the request.

South Africa presented its arguments Thursday for provisional measures under which the court would order Israel to withdraw its forces from Gaza. The ICJ is currently investigating the Dec. 29, 2023 complaint by South Africa, alleging that Israel is committing genocidal acts in the Gaza Strip, but the inquiry could take several months, perhaps years. In January and March, the ICJ issued provisional measures calling on Israel to do everything in its power to avoid genocidal acts and incitement against Palestinians, but declined South Africa’s request to order Israel to cease its military operations in the Strip.

Israel accuses South Africa of aligning with Hamas

"Hamas, with whom Israel is in conflict, is not a party to this hearing. By exploiting the Genocide Convention, South Africa is once again seeking orders that would bind only Israel and not Hamas," said jurist Gilad Noam, who headed the Israeli delegation. Noam added, "South Africa claims to come here as the defender of humanity. In fact, it has an ulterior motive when it asks Israel to stay away from Rafah. It does this to gain a military advantage for its ally, Hamas." Noam reminded the court that South Africa hosted a Hamas delegation in Johannesburg just one week ago.

Noam argued that South Africa “did not use the [Johannesburg] meeting to urge Hamas to release hostages, stop targeting Israeli civilians, cease using human shields, cease operating in United Nations facilities, hospitals and other protected sites. They apparently met to discuss their continuing campaign against Israel in court and on the ground.” 

Israel says humanitarian aid entering Strip

Countering South Africa’s claim that Israel has halted humanitarian aid for genocidal purposes, Foreign Ministry legal adviser Tamar Kaplan Tourgeman said Israel closed the Kerem Shalom crossing only after Hamas attacked the location with a barrage of rockets a few days ago. The crossing point is now operating again, with 365 trucks of aid entering the Strip on Thursday, 330 of them through Kerem Shalom itself, she noted, adding that Israel had opened three new land crossings into Gaza from Israeli territory in recent weeks.

Kaplan Tourgeman recalled an April 4 decision by the Israeli cabinet, which stated that Israel would increase efforts to “allow and facilitate transfer of humanitarian aid for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip” and establish a ministerial team to “implement the policy of the government regarding the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza Strip.”

Short timeline

The Israeli team expressed surprise at the ICJ's decision to hold the public hearing on Thursday and Friday, as Israel is expected to deliver written comments to the court next week. Noam said that Israel had asked for more time so the whole legal team could participate, but the court did not grant the request. 

At the end of the hearing, Judge Georg Nolte asked Israel to provide more information on how it is protecting the people now leaving east Rafah because of the Israeli military operation and providing them food and shelter. ICJ President Nawaf Salam, who took over from Joan Donoghue after the case was submitted last December, ordered Israel to submit its response by Saturday night. He also said that the court will rule soon on South Africa's provisional measures request.