Israel braces for ruling, focuses attack on south Gaza

January 26, 2024 by AAP
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UN judges in The Hague will rule whether to order Israel to suspend its military campaign in Gaza as officials push ahead with efforts to negotiate a new deal for a ceasefire and release of more Israeli hostages.

Judges start a hearing at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. The United Nations’ top court opened hearings Thursday into South Africa’s allegation that Israel’s war with Hamas amounts to genocide against Palestinians    (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

On the ground in the seaside enclave, Gaza officials said on Thursday that Israeli strikes killed 20 Palestinians queuing for food aid in Gaza City, six people in a house in central Gaza’s Al-Nusseirat refugee camp and at least 50 people in the prior 24 hours in Gaza’s main southern city Khan Younis, where Israel is focusing the brunt of its might.

Reuters could not independently verify the details while Israel said it was either looking into the reports or did not immediately comment on the incidents.

The judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also called the World Court, are due to rule on Friday on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel in a case accusing it of state-led genocide in the Gaza Strip.

In more than three months of war, Israel’s campaign has levelled much of the enclave, displaced some 1.9 million Palestinians and killed at least 25,900 people, according to Gaza officials.

Israel launched its offensive in October after militants from Hamas, which rules Gaza, stormed into southern Israel, killing 1200 people and taking 240 hostages.

The court will issue its ruling at 1pm on Friday (2300 AEDT) in a hearing expected to last about an hour.

While the judges will not rule on the merits of the genocide allegations, which may take years to decide, South Africa asked the court to issue an interim order compelling Israel to suspend its military operations.

Israel has called South Africa’s allegations false and “grossly distorted”, and said it makes the utmost efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.

The court’s rulings are final and without appeal, but it has no way of enforcing them.

Israel on Thursday expressed confidence that the ICJ would “throw out these spurious and specious charges”.

Hamas said it would abide by an ICJ ceasefire order if Israel reciprocates.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to negotiate a break in the conflict continued. US and Israeli intelligence chiefs were due to meet Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Europe this weekend, one official told Reuters.

A second source said Egypt’s intelligence chief would also take part.

The White House has been trying to facilitate the release of the more than 100 remaining Israeli hostages taken during Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, which ignited the war in Gaza, although there remains a considerable distance between the two sides’ demands.

A third source with knowledge of the talks said that Israel has proposed a 60-day pause in the fighting during which hostages would be released in phases, beginning with civilian women and children.

Previously, three sources told Reuters that shuttle diplomacy in the past month involving the US, Qatar and Egypt has sought to hammer out a new deal for a ceasefire of about one month.

But progress has been held up by differences between Hamas and Israel over how to bring a permanent end to the Gaza war.

In Gaza on Thursday, tanks hit areas around two hospitals in Khan Younis, forcing displaced people into a new desperate scramble for safety, residents said.

Israel’s military said early on Friday that its intelligence found that Hamas was operating from inside and around the two hospitals, Nasser and Al-Amal, in Khan Younis.

Hamas and medical workers have denied Israeli claims that militants in Gaza use hospitals as cover for bases.

The Israeli military said it was co-ordinating with hospital staff to ensure they remain “operational and accessible” and there was a safe corridor for people to leave the hospitals.

“The facts on the ground disprove the blatant misinformation that has been disseminated over the last 72 hours falsely claiming that the hospitals are under siege or attack,” it said in a statement.

On Thursday, thousands of homeless people sheltering in Khan Younis sought to flee to Rafah, 15km away, the UN relief agency for Palestinians said.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said that as a respected middle power Australia has strongly pushed for the international rule of law and has an important role to play with key partners, including those in our region, who will be looking to Australia for leadership.”

Mr Leibler continued, “There is no genocide or attempted genocide occurring in Gaza. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or ignorant.”

“The allegation that Israel is committing genocide is baseless and a blatant attempt to besmirch Israel’s reputation. While this, in and of itself, should be enough to see the Australian Government condemn South Africa, there is a more important issue at stake,” Mr Leibler said.

“The act of genocide is one of the most serious crimes against humanity. Using this allegation when no genocide is occurring, solely in order to achieve a diplomatic victory against Israel, has the effect of weakening the Genocide Convention.”

“Beyond calling out the irresponsible nature of the South African allegations, we believe that the Australian Government should officially intervene in the International Court of Justice process, to call on it to dismiss this case. In doing so, Australia would act with likeminded countries,” Mr Leibler added.

AAP/J-Wire

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