Gaza is 'a concentration camp where genocide is taking place,' claims South Africa in landmark case

ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports from the International Court of Justice on the first day of the case

Gaza has been described as a "concentration camp where genocide is taking place," the Untied Nations' top court heard in a landmark case brought forward by South Africa against Israel.

On Thursday, hearings began at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for South Africa’s allegation that Israel’s war with Hamas amounts to genocide against Palestinians.

Israel will have the opportunity to refute the claims, which it stringently denies, on Friday.

South Africa's lawyers have asked judges to impose binding preliminary orders on Israel, including an immediate halt to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

“Genocides are never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence that shows incontrovertibly a pattern of conduct and related intention that justifies as a plausible claim of genocidal acts,” South African lawyer Adila Hassim told the judges and audience in the packed, ornate room of the Peace Palace in The Hague.

“Nothing will stop the suffering except an order from this court," she said.

"Without an indication of provisional measures, the atrocities will continue, with the Israeli Defence Force indicating that it intends pursuing this course of action for at least a year."

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Another of South Africa's lawyers, John Dugard, added the Gaza Strip is “a concentration camp where genocide is taking place.”

He was repeating remarks made in 2023 by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Irish lawyer, Blinne Ni Ghralaigh KC, representing South Africa said “nobody is safe” in Gaza.

She told the ICJ that the “horror of the genocide against the Palestinian people” was being live-streamed around the world in real time, which will have "repercussions for generations to come".

She said the international community had failed the Palestinian people who were broadcasting their own destruction “in the desperate, so far, vain hope that the world might do something”.

Ms Ni Ghralaigh said that there was a need for urgent provisional measures to order the Israeli military to halt its operations in Gaza.

Hundreds of pro-Israel protestors gathered outside the Hague on Thursday ahead of the first day of hearings in the case Credit: AP

While the case examines the genocidal intent of Israel, questions have been raised over whether Hamas too could face similar claims after the October 7 attack.

But Vaughan Lowe, a British lawyer representing South Africa at the ICJ, clarified in his statement that because Hamas is not a state, it is not party to the Genocide Convention of 1948.

It could therefore not be upheld as a war crime at the ICJ.

Hamas praised the case made by South Africa’s legal team at the ICJ in a short statement issued on the group’s Telegram page.

It said South Africa is proving “its principled position in support of our Palestinian people… and its rejection of the brutal crimes of the occupation (by Israel) against our people.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman called South Africa's claims “one of history’s greatest displays of hypocrisy.”

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Lior Haiat described South Africa as “Hamas’ representatives in court," and added that the claims were "baseless and false."

He said South Africa ignored the brutal nature of Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, before adding that Israel would continue to work to crush the militant group.

The ICJ case revolves around the Genocide Convention that was drawn up in 1948 in the aftermath of World War Two and the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust. Both Israel and South Africa are signatories.

South Africa wants the court to rule that Israel is committing genocide, but Israel denies the charges and claims its offensive is an act of self defence.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 23,200 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children, health officials say.

In the October 7 attack, in which Hamas stormed through several communities, Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and took some 250 others hostage.

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