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South Africa Asks World Court to Find Israeli Occupation Illegal


By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – South Africa on Tuesday urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, arguing it would help efforts to reach a settlement.

Representatives of South Africa opened the second day of hearings at the ICJ, also known as the World Court, in the Hague. The hearing follows a request by the U.N. General Assembly for an advisory, or non-binding, opinion on the occupation in 2022. More than 50 states will present arguments until Feb. 26.

War in Israel and Gaza

A Palestinian girl collects salvageable items in a building damaged during Israeli bombardment in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Israel announced on February 12 the rescue of two hostages in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the Hamas-run health ministry said "around 100" Palestinians including children were killed in heavy overnight air strikes. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP) (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday, Palestinian representatives asked the U.N.’s highest court to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal, also saying the court’s advisory opinion could contribute to a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

Israel is not attending the hearings but sent a written statement, saying an advisory opinion would be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

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Drum majors from the Mississippi Valley State University marching band parade down Jackson Ave during the traditional Krewe of Zulu Parade on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

“A clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement,” Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa’s ambassador to the Netherlands told the judges.

The latest surge of violence in Gaza, promoted by the Oct.7 attacks in Israel by Hamas, has complicated already deeply-rooted grievances in the Middle East and damaged efforts towards finding a path to peace.

The ICJ’s 15-judge panel has been asked to review Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

The judges are expected to take roughly six months to issue an opinion on the request, which also asks them to consider the legal status of the occupation and its consequences.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Editing by William Maclean)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters.



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