Israel is set to be tested by the World Court for genocide in Gaza

Right-wing ministers’ calls to permanently occupy the enclave were publicly rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday as Israel readied itself to defend itself against charges of genocide in Gaza before the top U.N. court.

Thursday saw Israel gearing up to present its defence against genocide allegations in Gaza at the United Nations’ top court. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly rejected suggestions from certain right-wing ministers to establish a permanent occupation in the enclave, marking a significant departure from previous stances.

As Israel’s war in Gaza raged on, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, also known as the World Court, was set to hold hearings on Thursday and Friday in a case brought by South Africa in December, alleging that Israel’s war on Hamas militants in Gaza violates the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The sole topic of discussion during the hearings will be South Africa’s request for emergency measures, which would require Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza while the court considers the case’s merits. This could take several years. On Wednesday, Colombia and Brazil expressed their backing for South Africa.

Following a cross-border rampage by Hamas fighters on October 7, during which Israel claims 1,200 people were killed and 240 were kidnapped, Israel began its offensive.

Since then, almost all 2.3 million people in Gaza have been forced from their homes at least once by Israeli forces, resulting in a humanitarian catastrophe. There have been over 23,000 Palestinian fatalities.

In a notable shift, Netanyahu publicly rejected demands from right-wing figures in his administration, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. These calls advocated for Palestinians to vacate Gaza, allowing Israelis to move in—an unprecedented stance just before the hearings.

Although this has been Israel’s official position, Netanyahu has previously made erratic and occasionally ambiguous remarks about a permanent occupation of Gaza.

On the social media platform X, Netanyahu stated, “I want to make a few points clear: Israel has no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population.”

In keeping with possible timing, he continued, “Israel is fighting Hamas terrorists, not the Palestinian population, and we are doing so in full compliance with international law.”

In their Wednesday meeting, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah cautioned against any Israeli attempt to retake the Gaza Strip. They also urged the allowance of displaced individuals to return to their homes. The UN has called on Haiti to cease its assaults on ships.

The fighting in Gaza seemed to be as fierce as it had always been. Wednesday saw an increase in Israeli strikes in southern and central Gaza, despite Israel’s promise to withdraw some troops and switch to a more focused campaign and Washington’s entreaties to minimize civilian casualties.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson for Israel, stated in a late Wednesday televised briefing that the military was concentrating its operations on Khan Younis and the refugee camps in the middle of the strip.

The largest attack to date by the Houthi movement in Yemen, which claims it is acting to support Gaza, was repulsed by American and British warships in the Red Sea, marking the latest development in the three-month-old conflict. 21 drones and missiles aimed at shipping lanes were reported down by Washington and London. Nobody was harmed.

Late on Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution requiring the Houthis to immediately stop their attacks on ships.

This week, following weeks of pressure from the United States to reduce its operations and switch to what Washington claims should be a more focused campaign, Israel announced that it was going to start removing troops, at least from the northern portion of Gaza.

Due to security concerns, the World Health Organization had to postpone its scheduled medical aid mission to Gaza—the sixth one in as many weeks.

Four of the Palestinian Red Crescent’s employees perished when an Israeli strike on their ambulance on the main road close to Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, according to the organization. After suffering injuries, two of the ambulance’s occupants passed away.

Four Palestinian children were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah, according to Palestinian health officials at Abu Youssef An-Najar Hospital.

On his fourth visit to the area since the start of the conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Palestinian leaders on Wednesday in Ramallah, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

According to the State Department, Blinken talked about efforts to safeguard and assist Gaza’s civilian population as well as his support for a Palestinian state. Abbas reportedly told Blinken that no Palestinians should be forced to leave Gaza or the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Authority.