Israel is facing a genocide case in international court. Could it halt the war in Gaza?

A woman (R) mourns her husband, killed when the tent where the Salah and Abu Hatab families were sheltering was hit by Israeli bombardment, at the morgue of the Nasser medical centre in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 4, 2024, as battles between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants continue. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman (R) mourns her husband, killed when the tent where the Salah and Abu Hatab families were sheltering was hit by apparent Israeli bombardment, at the morgue of the Nasser medical center in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 4.AFP/Getty Images

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Israel is set to appear before the International Court of Justice this week in a high stakes case that could determine the course of the brutal war in Gaza.

It is an unprecedented case. Experts say it is the first time that the Jewish state is being tried under the United Nations’ Genocide Convention, which was drawn up after the Second World War in light of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

Smoke billows from Israeli bombardment over Khan Younis, as seen from Rafah, Gaza, on December 16.

South Africa files genocide case against Israel at International Court of Justice over Gaza war

The South African government, a successor to the apartheid regime that was made a pariah on the international stage three decades ago, brought the case against Israel, accusing it of being in breach of its obligations under the convention in its war on Hamas in Gaza.

Israel has firmly rejected the accusation, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a “false accusation.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on Tuesday that his country will present a case “using self-defense” to show that it is doing its “utmost” under “extremely complicated circumstances” to avert civilian casualties in Gaza.

Eliav Lieblich, a professor of international law at Tel Aviv University, told CNN the case is significant politically and legally. “An allegation of genocide is the gravest international legal allegation that can be made against a state,” he said.

Here’s what we know about this case.

What is South Africa saying?

South Africa is taking Israel to the ICJ, also known as the World Court, on claims that it is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and failing to prevent genocide.

“More gravely still, Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” South Africa said in its 84-page filing to the court.

South Africa says Israel’s acts in Gaza are genocidal “because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

“The acts in question include killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction,” the filing says.

More than 23,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza.

People take cover in a bomb shelter in Rishon Lezion, Israel, as rockets are launched from Gaza on October 7.
Rockets are fired toward Israel from Gaza on October 7.
Families and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza hold signs and photos of their loved ones at a protest calling for their return, outside a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 9.

Families and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza hold signs and photos of their loved ones at a protest calling for their return, outside a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 9.Oded Balilty/AP

People inspect the ruins of a civilian car after it was fatally struck by an Israeli drone in Rafah, Gaza, on January 8.
Soldiers exit a tunnel that Hamas reportedly used during the October 7 attack on Israel, in northern Gaza, on January 7.
People leave for Rafah in southern Gaza on January 4, after fleeing central Gaza.
Israeli soldiers carry the flag-draped casket of Staff Sgt. Sufian Dagash during his funeral in the village of Maghar, northern Israel, on January 3.
Palestinians displaced by Israeli bombardment take shelter in a makeshift tent in Rafah, Gaza on January 1, 2024.
Mourners gather in grief around the grave of Israeli soldier Captain Harel Ittah during his funeral in Netanya, Israel, on December 31.
A girl mourns the death of her relatives who were killed by Israeli bombardment, at the European Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 31.
The wife of IDF soldier Sergeant Elisha Yehonatan Lober, who was killed in southern Gaza, holds their baby during his funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on December 27.
A bulldozer unloads the bodies of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel and turned over by the Israeli military during a mass funeral in Rafah, Gaza, on December 26.
Mourners collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, Gaza, on December 24.
Palestinians carry a casualty near the site of an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza, on December 22.
Mourners at the grave of Lt. Yaacov Elian mourn during his funeral at Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv, Israel, on December 22.
Palestinians converge for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza, on December 21.
Family and friends react during the funeral for IDF Staff Sgt. Boris Dunavetski in Tel Aviv, Israel, on December 20.
A wounded man bids farewell to the body of his son following overnight Israeli bombardments at a hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on December 19.
A man sits with children by a fire outside one of the tents housing displaced Palestinians, in Rafah, Gaza, on December 18.
Relatives and friends of Alon Lulu Shamriz, one of the 3 Israeli hostages who were mistakenly killed by friendly fire, mourn during his funeral in Shefayim, Israel, on December 17.
Relatives and friends bid farewell to the body of Al Jazeera camera operator <a href=

Rockets are fired toward Israel from Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, on December 15.
Palestinians gather around the destroyed Shehada family home following Israeli bombardment of Rafah, Gaza, on December 14.
Mother and father of Israeli military commander Major Ben Shelly, who was killed in northern Gaza, embrace each other at his funeral in Kidron, Israel, on December 14.
A Palestinian woman reacts as she walks past makeshift tents during a rainy day at a UN relief agency logistics base in Rafah, Gaza, on December 13.
Israeli soldiers listen to their commander as they prepare to enter the Gaza Strip, near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, on December 13.
Palestinians carry an injured woman following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, Gaza, on December 12.
A soldier reacts during a funeral for IDF Reservist Maj. Eviatar Cohen in Kfar Saba, Israel, on December 12.
Israeli soldiers take positions in southern Israel near the Gaza border, on December 11.
Palestinians crowd around a truck that's distributing bottles of water in Rafah, Gaza, on December 11.
An Israeli howitzer fires into Gaza from a position near Nahal Oz, Israel, on December 10.
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza outside a morgue in Khan Younis on December 10.
Palestinian firefighters work to extinguish a fire in a house after an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, Gaza, on December 9.
Israeli soldiers patrol a border area with Gaza near Nahal Oz, Israel, on December 9.
Mourners attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Master Sgt. Gal Meir Eisenkot, 25, <a href=

Palestinians carry a dead girl, found under the rubble of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, in Gaza, on December 7.
Relatives and friends of hostages held in Gaza by the Hamas militant group light torches and march as they call for their release during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah in the Hostages Square at the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, Israel, on December 7.
People search for victims amid the rubble of a smoldering building, following an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, on December 6.
A close-up view of spent bullet casings on the ground near the Gaza border, in southern Israel, on December 6.
Security guards and a member of Israeli security forces pass a display of toppled toilets during a press tour of the 06:29 memorial recreating the site of the Nova music festival massacre in Tel Aviv, Israel, on December 6.
People walk past a building damaged in a rocket attack in Ashkelon, Israel, on December 5.
A child sleeps in a makeshift shelter in a new camp sheltering displaced Palestinians who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, in Rafah, southern Gaza, on December 5.
A Palestinian girl holds empty bottles as she queues to collect water in Rafah, southern Gaza, on December 5.
An Israeli artillery unit fires near the border with Gaza on December 5.
A Palestinian boy carrying a baby stands at a site of Israeli strikes in Rafah, southern Gaza, on December 4.
An Israeli military helicopter releases flares over the Israel-Gaza border, as seen from southern Israel, on December 4.
Israeli soldiers sit in a military vehicle near Israel's border with Gaza, in southern Israel, on December 4.
Palestinians inspect a house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on December 4.
Israeli military tanks roll near the border with the Gaza on December 3.
Family and friends of Staff Sergeant Aschalwu Sama mourn over his grave during his funeral in Petah Tikva, Israel, on December 3.
Palestinians carry belongings as they flee their homes on December 2, in Khan Younis, Gaza.
Palestinians hold empty containers to receive food in Rafah, Gaza, on December 2.
The Iron Dome air defense system intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza over Ashkelon, Israel, on December 1.
Smoke rises from buildings in Gaza after being hit by Israeli strikes as attacks resume between Israel and Hamas militants, on December 1.
Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, walks with her mother after she was released from prison by Israel, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on early November 30.
Viktor and Helena Brodski mourn during a memorial service for their son, Sgt. Kiril Brodski at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 29.
People walk through the debris of a mosque, as a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas took effect, in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 29.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters stand guard as Red Cross vehicles transport released hostages towards the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in southern Gaza, on November 28.
A Palestinian prisoner reacts after being released during the truce amid between Hamas and Israel, in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on November 28.
Protesters release balloons as they call for the release of the Bibas family, whose members are being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 28.
An Israeli helicopter transporting hostages released by Hamas prepares to land at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel on November 28.
A displaced Palestinian man sits by tents sheltering people near the border between Israel and southern Gaza, in Khan Younis on November 27.
People welcome a convoy carrying newly released hostages in Ofakim, Israel, on Sunday, November 26.
Young boys look at aid trucks entering Gaza on November 26.
Israa Jaabis, left, a Palestinian prisoner released by Israel, is hugged as she arrives home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber early November 26.
A Red Cross vehicle carrying Israeli hostages enters the Rafah border crossing late Saturday, November 25.
People await news of hostages expected to be released by Hamas in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 25.
Palestinians queue in front of a gas station in Khan, Younis, Gaza, to fill their kitchen cylinders after the arrival of trucks carrying aid on November 25.
A Palestinian woman sits on debris in her damaged apartment in the Khezaa district on the outskirts of the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis on November 25.
Members of the Asher family embrace each at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel on Friday, November 24. Sisters Aviv and Raz and their mother, Doron, were released on the first day of the truce between Israel and Hamas.
A helicopter carrying hostages released by Hamas lands at Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Israel, on November 24.
People in Tel Aviv, Israel, react as they hear the news of the release of 13 Israeli hostages held by Hamas on November 24.
Fireworks streak across the sky as Palestinian prisoners who were released from the Israeli Ofer military facility are paraded in Beitunia, in the occupied West Bank, on November 24.
International Red Cross vehicles transport freed hostages through the Rafah border crossing in Gaza on November 24. <a href=

Palestinians walk through destruction in Gaza City on November 24 as a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas took effect.
A Palestinian medic and civilians carry an injured man after an Israeli strike on Rafah, Gaza, on Thursday, November 23.
Artillery shells are lined up at a position in the Upper Galilee, northern Israel, bordering southern Lebanon on Wednesday, November 22.
Ambulances are seen on a road near an Israeli forces tank in Gaza on November 22.
Soldiers react during the funeral of Captain Liron Snir, 25, at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, on November 22.
Smoke billows after an Israeli strike as flares are dropped over northern Gaza on November 22.
Families and friends of hostages held in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home, during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, November 21.
Internally displaced Palestinians who fled northern Gaza sit in a makeshift shelter at a school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on November 21.
Injured Palestinians, including children, are taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment after Israeli attacks hit the school at Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Deir Al Balah, Gaza, on Monday, November 20.
People hold portraits of children held hostage by Hamas as protesters rally outside the Unicef offices in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 20.
A Palestinian woman cries in anguish following Israeli strikes on Rafah, Gaza, on November 20.
Israeli soldiers work on armored military vehicles along Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip, on November 20.
Palestinians clutching empty containers wait for food relief in Rafah, Gaza, on Sunday, November 19.
Israeli soldiers carry the casket of Major Jamal Abbas, an Israeli soldier from Israel's Druze minority who was killed in Gaza amid Israel's ongoing ground operation, at his funeral in Pekiin, Israel, on November 19.
A UN-provided tent camp for Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 19.
Foreign journalists get off a bus and take cover on the side of a road in Mavki'im, Israel, after a siren warns of a rocket fired from Gaza on November 19.
Premature newborns receive treatment after being transferred from Al-Shifa hospital to Al-Emarati hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on November 19.
Palestinians look at destruction after an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Saturday, November 18.
Tens of thousands of people led by the families of Hamas' hostages walk along Route 1 to enter Jerusalem on the <a href=

Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli strike on Rafah, Gaza, on Friday, November 17.
Israeli military members react during the funeral of Israeli soldier Avraham Fetena in Haifa, Israel, on November 17.
Damaged buildings in Gaza seen from Sderot, Israel, on Thursday, November 16.
Families of hostages march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on November 16, in Beit Hashmonai, Israel.
A Palestinian child looks through a broken window of a destroyed building, in Rafah, Gaza, on Wednesday, November 15.
An Israeli army armored fighting vehicle returns to a staging area from the border with Gaza on November 15, in southern Israel.
People mourn as they stand behind a metal fence before the burial of victims killed in an Israeli bombardment in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Tuesday, November 14.
Israeli soldiers form an honor guard at the funeral of Israeli reserve soldier Master Sgt. Raz Abulafia in Rishpon, Israel, on November 14.
Journalists report from a vantage point overlooking northern Gaza in Sderot, Israel, on Monday, November 13.
Palestinians line up for food in Rafah, Gaza, on November 13.
Men walk along the border of Gaza in southern Israel on November 13.
A Palestinian child cries next to his mother after they were rushed to Nasser hospital, following an Israeli strike, in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 13.
Family and friends attends the funeral of Israeli soldier Matan Meir on November 13 in Odem, Israel.
An Israeli soldier fires his weapon in Gaza on November 13.
Newborns are placed in a bed after being taken off incubators in Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital after power outage in Gaza City on Sunday, November 12.
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a residential building following an Israeli strike in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 12.
Mourners attend the funeral of Sgt. Roni Eshel in Kfar Saba, Israel, on November 12. Eshel was killed during Hamas' attack on October 7.
This picture taken from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip early on November 12, shows flares being fired by Israeli troops over the Gaza Strip.
On day 35 of hostages being detained by Hamas, a woman holds the image of a hostage while sitting amongst thousands of people and families of kidnapped people taking part in a protest to demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secures the release of Israeli hostages, on Saturday, November 11, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Images of people's eyes adorn chairs, one for each of the 240 Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, which are placed outside The Museum of Modern Art known as the 'The Hostages and Missing Square' on November 11, in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israeli soldiers and military vehicles take a position inside Gaza in this Israel Defense Forces (IDF) handout picture obtained by Reuters, on November 11.
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in Israeli bombardment at a hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 11.
Cemetery attendant Sadi Berek, 63, works to maintain graves of children who were killed in the aftermath of Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza, on Friday, November 10.
Palestinians flee to southern Gaza on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza, on November 10.
An Israeli tank rolls near Sderot, Israel, along the border with Gaza, on November 10.
Varda Goldstein enters her house for the first time after it was burned in the October 7 Hamas attack in Kfar Aza, Israel, on November 10.
A fireball erupts during Israeli bombardment of Gaza, as seen from Israel, on Thursday, November 9.
On November 9, an IDF soldier from the Israeli Military Rabbinate looks for items that may help identify people killed at Kibbutz Nir Oz, Israel, in the October 7 attacks.
A Palestinian nurse at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza mourns after receiving news that his brother has died.
People look at an installation called "Empty Beds" on November 9 in Tel Aviv, where beds represent around 240 hostages seized in the attack by Hamas gunmen.
A Palestinian woman inspects the bodies of victims outside Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital who were killed in Israeli bombardment, on November 8.
Palestinians inspect debris at the Khaled Ibn Al-Walid mosque after it was hit by an Israeli bombardment in Khan Younis, on November 8.
Family and friends attend the funeral of fallen Israeli soldier, Ya'akov Ozeri, in Meron, Israel on November 8.
An Israeli soldier in northern Gaza on November 8.
A woman carries a white flag as Palestinians flee from Gaza City to the south on November 7.
In Tel Aviv on November 7, people hold photos of people who were kidnapped by Hamas and taken to Gaza.
A Palestinian child receives treatment at Nasser Medical Hospital after a strike in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 7.
A woman in Tel Aviv writes on a photo of people kidnapped during the October 7 Hamas attack in Israel.
People hold Israeli flags in Jerusalem on November 7, one month after Hamas's attacks in Israel.
People mourn as they wait for the bodies of members of a family killed in a strike to be removed from Rafah's al-Najjar Hospital for burial on November 7.
A Palestinian man reacts as others check the rubble of a building in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 6.
Photographs of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas militants are projected onto the walls of Jerusalem's Old City on November 6.
A Palestinian family sits near destroyed houses following a strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, on November 6.
A soldier takes cover as an artillery unit fires from an undisclosed location near the Israel-Gaza border on November 6.
A woman looks for names on a memorial wall in Jerusalem's Old City on November 6 that lists the 1,400 people killed in the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel.
At the Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital on November 6, a man walks between the shrouded bodies of people killed in the Israeli bombardment in Deir Balah, central Gaza.
A family member reacts as Palestinian cameraman Mohammed Alaloul (bottom) covers the body of a relative killed in an Israeli strike, in Gaza on Sunday, November 5.
Soldiers are seen walking at a location given as Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from an Israel Defence Forces handout video released on November 5.
Palestinians look for survivors following an Israeli bombardment in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, Gaza, on November 5.
Soldiers from the IDF's coed infantry battalion 'Bardelas' guard an Israeli community in Southern Israel on November 5.
Teams put out a fire that broke out among the rubble of a destroyed building during search and rescue operations after an Israeli attack in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Saturday, November 4.
Protesters call for the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas during a demonstration near HaKirya base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 4.
Rockets are launched from Gaza into Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, in southern Israel, on November 4.
United Nations workers in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza prepare aid for distribution to Palestinians, who have fled their homes and are sheltering in a UN-run school, on November 4.
Blood is splattered on the side of an ambulance after an Israeli airstrike outside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Friday, November 3.
A relative bids farewell during the funerals of Palestine TV journalist Mohammad Abu Hattab and his eleven family members the day after they were killed in Khan Younis, Gaza on November 3.
Palestinians search for survivors following an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis, Gaza on November 3.
Neta Heiman, a peace activist, holds a photograph of her mother, Ditza Heiman, who is being held hostage by Hamas, in Haifa, Israel on Thursday, November 2.
Mourners gather around the coffin of Druze Israeli Lieutenant colonel Salman Habaka in the village of Yanuh Jat, northern Israel, on November 3
Children wait for the return of Palestinian workers from Israel at the Rafah border in southern Gaza, on November 3.
Family and friends grieve for Capt. (Res.) Yuval Zilber at the Netaim Cemetery in Netaim, Israel, on November 3.
Pictures of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas are displayed with balloons as part of an installation in Jerusalem on November 2.
Palestinians take humanitarian aid from a truck near the Rafah border crossing in Gaza on November 2.
An Israeli artillery unit fires during a military drill in Golan Heights, Israel near the border with Lebanon on November 2.
Palestinians with dual citizenship show their passports while seeking permission to leave Gaza at the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, on November 1.
A man sits on debris as Palestinians conduct a search and rescue operation after the second bombardment to the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza City, on Wednesday, November 1.
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires flares over Gaza, seen from Sderot, Israel, on November 1.
Palestinian families take shelter in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency refugee camp in Khan Younis, Gaza, on November 1.
Relatives react during the funeral of an Israeli soldier in Jerusalem, on November 1.
Palestinians move through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, on November 1. Injured Palestinians and foreign nationals from Gaza have <a href=

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza on October 31.
Friends and family mourn Yosef Vahav, 65, who was killed following Hamas' infiltration from Gaza, at his funeral in Beit Guvrin, Israel on Tuesday, October 31.
Israeli army vehicles move along a road near the northern town of Kiryat Shmona close to the border with Lebanon on October 31.
Relatives mourn as bodies are carried for burial from Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza, on October 31.
Relatives attend the funeral of Albert Miles, 81, at the Kibbutz Revivim cemetery, south Israel, on October 30. Albert Miles was killed during the Hamas attack on October 7, in Kibbutz Be'eri near the border with Gaza.
A Palestinian man holds his wounded child as they receive medical attention at Al-Najjar Hospital following an Israeli airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza on October 30.
Vehicles destroyed by Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel are seen collected in a field near the Israel's border with Gaza on October 30.
A photo released by the IDF shows its forces continue to expand ground operations in Gaza on October 30.
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli airstrikes in Rafah on October 30.
A man holds wounded children near livestock animals amid heavily damaged buildings, following Israeli attacks at Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza City, on Sunday, October 29.
Manna mourns her daughter Tamar Chaya Torpiashvili, a 9-year-old girl who died days after experiencing a cardiac attack during a siren warning of incoming rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel, at her funeral in Ashdod, southern Israel, on October 29.
An injured man is covered in dust in the aftermath of Israeli bombing in Rafah, southern Gaza, on October 29.
Smoke and explosions are seen on the horizon in northern Gaza, amid Israel's bombardment of the enclave, on Saturday, October 28.
Israeli armored vehicles on the move near the border with Gaza, in Sderot, Israel on the morning of October 28.
Palestinian children sit in a vehicle loaded with household items in Khan Younis refugee camp, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on October 28.
People check the destruction following Israeli strikes on Al-Shatee camp in Gaza City on October 28.
A man writes a message during a demonstration by family members and supporters of hostages who are being held in Gaza after they were kidnapped from Israel by Hamas gunmen, as they call for a dialogue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 28.
Palestinian lawyer Jehad Al-Kafarnah, whose pregnant wife and unborn child were killed in an Israeli strike, according to health officials, mourns over her shrouded body at a hospital in northern Gaza on Friday, October 27.
Teddy bears with their eyes covered and showing signs of injury are displayed to highlight the young children and babies currently missing, believed to be being held hostage by Hamas, on October 27 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israeli firefighters and rescue teams assess destruction after a rocket attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 27.
A Palestinian man injured in an Israeli airstrike is carried on a stretcher at Nasser Medical Hospital, in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 27.
An Israeli air force F-15 tactical fighter jet flies along the border with Gaza near Sderot, Israel, on October 27.
People take cover as rocket sirens sound during the funeral of Sagiv Ben Zvi in Holon, Israel, on Thursday, October 26.
Smoke and fire rise from a leveled building after an Israeli strike on Gaza on October 26.
A woman looks from behind a gate at the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli strikes at a hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 26.
Relatives of hostages held in Gaza demonstrate in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 26.
A Palestinian child is assisted as people search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a residential building in Gaza City on Wednesday, October 25.
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel towards Gaza on October 25.<br />
A woman with a photograph of a child who was abducted during the Hamas attack on Israel hands out yellow ribbons to passing drivers in central Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 25.<br />
Palestinians mourn their loved ones killed in an Israeli strike, outside Najjar hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on October 24.
Yocheved Lifshitz speaks to the media after she was released by Hamas, outside Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 24.
Al Shifa hospital is lit up in Gaza City on October 24.
Rescuers assist a survivor of an Israeli bombardment in Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza, on Tuesday, October 24.
Palestinians look for survivors in the rubble after Israeli strikes in Rafah in southern Gaza on October 23.
A baby receives care inside an incubator at a hospital in Rafah, Gaza, on Monday, October 23.
Mourners hold hands during the funeral of Sgt. Yam Goldstein and her father, Nadav, in Kibbutz Shefayim, Israel, on October 23.
Israeli soldiers cry during the funeral of Sgt. Yam Goldstein and her father, Nadav, in Kibbutz Shefayim, Israel, on October 23.
An Israeli soldier stands in an armored vehicle near the Lebanon border on October 23.
Khaled Joudeh mourns his young sister, Misq, at the morgue at Deir Al-Balah hospital in Gaza on October 22.
Pictures of over 1,000 people abducted, missing or killed in the Hamas attack are displayed on empty seats in the Smolarz Auditorium at Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 22.
Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on October 22.
Relatives mourn for a man killed by Hamas during his funeral in Nir Oz, Israel, on October 22.
Injured civilians are recovered from the rubble of a destroyed house following Israeli air strikes near a UNRWA school housing displaced people in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Saturday, October 21.
A photo hangs on a refrigerator dotted with bullet holes in a home in Kibbutz Kissufim, Israel, on October 21.
An aerial view of residential buildings destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Zahra City, Gaza, on October 21.
Relatives mourn for a family killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 21.
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah border crossing on October 21.
Relatives of hostages speak to the media during the "Lighting up the Light" campaign for the return of those held captive, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 21.
Palestinians inspect a destroyed area following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on October 21.
Children use candles for lighting in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Friday, October 20.
Muslim Palestinians take part in Friday noon prayers as Israeli police look on in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, on October 20.
Women grieve at an event for the families of Israelis who are missing or being held hostage in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 20.
Civil defense teams and residents continue search and rescue efforts at a Greek Orthodox church after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 20.
A Palestinian woman mourns over the bodies of her relatives who were killed an Israeli airstrike that hit a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City on October 20.
Rockets are fired from Gaza toward Israel on Thursday, October 19.
Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets soldiers in a field near Israel's border with Gaza on October 19. <a href=

Friends and relatives of Ofir Libstein, who served as head of the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council and died during the Kibbutz Kfar Aza attack, mourn at his funeral in Even Yehuda, Israel, on Wednesday, October 18.
A woman mourns over a dead man at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Gaza City on October 18.
A Palestinian man inspects a destroyed house belonging to the Al-Jazzar family after an airstrike in Rafah, Gaza, on October 18.
Photographs of people taken hostage by Hamas are seen in Tel Aviv on October 18.
People mourn a family during a funeral in Hod HaSharon, Israel, on October 18.
Israeli security inspects debris from a rocket in Kiryat Shmona, Israel, on October 18.
From left, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US President Joe Biden join Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials as they wait for the start of the Israeli war cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv on October 18.
A view shows the aftermath of a <a href=

President Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on October 18.
Wounded Palestinians sit on the floor at the Al-Shifa Hospital after being transported from the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital following a blast there on Tuesday, October 17.
Bodies of Palestinians killed in <a href=

Israeli security forces inspect a damaged residential building after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza in Sderot, Israel on October 17.
A bakery prepares rations of bread to pass out to displaced Palestinians in the Rafah refugee camp, in southern Gaza, on October 17.
People lay wreaths during a funeral for the Israeli Kutz family in Gan-Yavne, Israel on October 17. The family of five were murdered in their home by Palestinian militants who infiltrated the Israeli Kibbutz of Kfar Aza last week.
Civil defense members and residents conduct search and rescue operations amid destroyed buildings after an Israeli attack in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Tuesday, October 17,
Aid supplies are seen in North Sinai, Egypt on October 16.
Street vendors work on a darkened street without power in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 16.
Palestinians wait to cross into Egypt at the Rafah border crossing in Gaza on October 16.
People hold Israeli flags as friends and family mourn Dor Reder at his funeral in Beit Kama, southern Israel, on October 16.
Palestinians carry a person wounded in Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Monday, October 16.
People prepare to board a ship that will transport US nationals and their immediate family members from Haifa, Israel, to Cyprus on October 16.
The remains of a Palestinian house destroyed in Israeli strikes in central Gaza on October 15.
Israeli army soldiers patrol at an undisclosed position in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon on October 15.
People carry children as they flee following an Israeli strike on Rafah in southern Gaza on Sunday, October 15.
Antonio Macías' mother cries over her son's body at Pardes Haim cemetery in Kfar Saba, Israel, on October 15. Macías was killed by Hamas at an <a href=

Palestinians collect water from a tap on October 15 after <a href=

Israeli army Puma armored personnel carriers  move in a column near the Gaza border in southern Israel on October 14.
People react at the site of an Israeli airstrike in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on Saturday, October 14.
Eli Albag cries over the photograph of his daughter Liri, as he gathers with others during a protest demanding the release of more than 100 Israelis who were abducted during last week's Hamas attack, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 14.
Leaflets dropped from Israeli army planes fall over Gaza City on Friday, October 13.
An Israeli soldier looks inside a house that was overrun by Hamas militants in Be'eri, Israel, on October 13.
Palestinians rescue a wounded man from the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza, on October 13.
Israeli artillery fires on the Israel-Gaza border on October 13.
Israelis take cover after hearing warning sirens of incoming rockets fired from Gaza in Rehovot, Israel, on October 13.
On October 13, doctors at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, examine children injured in Israeli attacks.
A Palestinian child is injured during bombing in Gaza on October 13.
Palestinians flee from northern Gaza to the south after the Israeli army issued an evacuation warning to seek refuge in the south, on October 13.
Mourners attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Abraham Cohen at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on Thursday, October 12.
Israeli soldiers patrol near Kibbutz Be'eri, Israel, on October 12.
Family members of Valentin Ghnassia react during his funeral ceremony at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on October 12. Ghnassia was killed in a battle with Hamas militants in Be'eri, Israel.
An Israeli soldier patrols near the Nova music festival grounds near Be'eri, Israel, on October 12.
An Israeli military helicopter flies near the border between Gaza and Sderot, Israel, on October 12.
Palestinians seek shelter in Khan Younis, Gaza, after a house next door was hit by an Israeli airstrike on October 12.
A morgue worker arranges body bags at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on October 12.
Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on October 12.
A Palestinian woman covered in dust and dirt carries a child in Gaza City on October 12.
An Israeli soldier walks by a house destroyed by Hamas militants in Kibbutz Be'eri on Wednesday, October 11.
An Israeli army self-propelled howitzer fires rounds near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 11.
People carry bodies of Palestinians killed during an Israeli airstrike prior to their burial in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 11.
An aerial view of buildings destroyed by Israeli airstrikes at the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza City on October 11.
Mourners react beside the body of Mapal Adam during her funeral in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 11.
Palestinians run from Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 11.
Israeli soldiers load donated food into the back of a military vehicle in Sderot, Israel, on October 11.
Bullet holes are seen in a cracked window at the entrance of a kindergarten in Be'eri, Israel, on October 11. The self-sustaining farming community near Gaza was <a href=

A mourner reacts while burying a child from the al-Agha family, who were killed in Israeli strikes in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 11.
Itzik and Miriam Shafir, center, mourn during their son's funeral at a cemetery in Modiin Maccabim, Israel, on October 11. Their son, Dor Shafir, and his girlfriend, Savion Kiper, were killed during <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/07/middleeast/israel-gaza-fighting-hamas-attack-music-festival-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">Hamas' attack on a music festival</a> on Saturday.

A boy carries salvaged belongings from the wreckage of his family's home in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 11.
Smoke rises after Israeli strikes on the seaport of Gaza City on Tuesday, October 10.
Israeli soldiers carry a body on October 10 in Kfar Aza, a village in Israel just across the border from Gaza. Hamas militants carried out a "massacre" in Kfar Aza during their attacks over the weekend, <a href=

Palestinians mourn during the funeral of a relative killed in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City on October 10.
People mourn at the grave of Eden Guez during her funeral in Ashkelon, Israel, on October 10. She was killed as she attended a music festival that was <a href=

Israeli soldiers take position in Kfar Aza near the border with Gaza on October 10.
Palestinians rescue a young girl from the rubble of a destroyed residential building following an Israeli airstrike on October 10.
Stranded travelers wait to be booked on a flight at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv on October 10.
Palestinians walk amid the rubble following Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 10.
Israelis in Ashkelon take cover in a shelter as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets on October 10.
People gather around the bodies of two Palestinian reporters, Mohammed Soboh and Said al-Tawil, who were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 10.
Israelis mourn as they attend the funeral of Israel Defense Forces soldier Noam Elimeleh Rothenberg at Mount Herzel Cemetery in Jerusalem, on October 10.
A Palestinian man reacts as he carries the body of his cousin who was pulled from the rubble after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Monday, October 9.
A family takes shelter at a neighbor's house after their home was damaged in an Israeli airstrike in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza on October 9.
Children run for cover as bombs fall near the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on October 9.
A photo from a wedding is seen on the ground of a building in Ashkelon that was hit by rockets from Gaza on October 9.
People take shelter in Jerusalem on October 9.
The ruins of the Yassin mosque are seen in the Shati refugee camp just outside Gaza City on October 9.
Friends and relatives of Ilai Bar Sade mourn next to his grave during his funeral at a military cemetery in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 9.
Six-month-old Sama Alwadia is rescued from the rubble in Gaza City on October 9. Though the child had survived the initial strike, she died later while being treated for her injuries.
Lightning strikes over Gaza City following an Israeli bombardment on October 9.
Israeli soldiers take position near the border between Gaza and Israel on October 9.
A Palestinian man mourns over the body of his nephew killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 9.
Israeli security and emergency officials respond after a rocket landed in the Israeli settlement of Beitar Ilit, in the occupied West Bank, on October 9.
Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the Sousi mosque in Gaza City on October 9.
Israeli soldiers work on a tank at the border between Israel and Gaza on October 9.
Palestinians remove a body from the rubble of a building after an Israeli airstrike on the Jebaliya refugee camp in Gaza on October 9.
A plume of smoke rises in the sky over Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on October 9.
The mother of Israeli Col. Roi Levy cries during her son's funeral at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem on October 9.
Palestinians inspect damage from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City's Shati refugee camp on October 9.
An injured Palestinian child is pictured in the aftermath of Israeli airstrikes at al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza on October 9.
Israelis view a damaged residential building in Ashkelon after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza on October 9.
Tali Touito reacts as she describes how Hamas gunmen attacked and took over the police station on her street, in Sderot, Israel, on Sunday, October 8.
Fire and smoke rise from Gaza City following an Israeli airstrike on October 8.
A relative of an Israeli missing since the attacks is overcome by emotion during a press conference in Ramat Gan, Israel, on October 8.
Palestinians inspect a mosque destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, Gaza, on October 8.
An Israeli soldier prays standing in front of a tank on the outskirts of the northern town of Kiryat Shmona on October 8.
Israelis inspect the rubble of a building in Tel Aviv on October 8, a day after it was hit by a rocket fired from Gaza.
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Gaza on October 8.
Palestinians search the rubble of a home in Khan Younis that was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes on October 8.
Palestinian citizens inspect damage to their homes caused by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on October 8.
Rockets launched from Gaza are intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system on October 8.
Palestinian children look toward the sky at the sound of airstrikes at a United Nations-run school in Gaza on Saturday, October 7.
A woman runs to her family's reinforced concrete shelter moments after rocket sirens sounded in Ashkelon on October 7.
From the window of his family's apartment, a man surveys damage from a rocket that struck a parking lot in Ashkelon on October 7.
Palestinians gather around an Israeli army vehicle that Palestinian militants drove from Israel into Gaza on October 7.
Palestinians break into the Israeli side of the Israel-Gaza border, after gunmen infiltrated parts of southern Israel on October 7.
Police officers evacuate a woman and a child from a site hit by a rocket in Ashkelon on October 7.
Israeli police take cover in Ashkelon as sirens wail while rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel on October 7.
Smoke rises over Gaza during Israeli airstrikes on October 7.
An Israeli woman reacts over the body of her relative who was killed in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on October 7.
Children are seen in a damaged house in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes on October 7.
Vehicles in Ashkelon burn as rockets are launched from Gaza on October 7.
A man in Ashkelon runs after rockets were launched from Gaza on October 7.
Israelis donate blood in Jerusalem on October 7.
Palestinians inspect a destroyed building as emergency responders try to contain fires after Israeli jets bombed Gaza on October 7.
Outside of a hospital in Gaza, men sit next to the covered body of a Palestinian militant killed during Saturday's clashes.
Relatives of Palestinians killed on Saturday, October 7, mourn at the morgue of a hospital in Gaza.
An Israeli soldier stands by the bodies of Israelis killed by Palestinian militants in Sderot on October 7.
A woman stands in a room damaged by rockets in Ashkelon on October 7.
A building in Tel Aviv is ablaze Saturday, October 7, following rocket attacks from Gaza.
Smoke rises as the clashes between Palestinian groups and Israeli forces continue on the streets of Beit Hanun in Gaza on October 7.
People take cover in a bomb shelter in Rishon Lezion, Israel, as rockets are launched from Gaza on October 7.
Rockets are fired toward Israel from Gaza on October 7.
Families and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza hold signs and photos of their loved ones at a protest calling for their return, outside a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 9.
People inspect the ruins of a civilian car after it was fatally struck by an Israeli drone in Rafah, Gaza, on January 8.
In pictures: Israel at war with Hamas

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The United Nations defines genocide as an act “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

The UN says that it was developed “partly in response to the Nazi policies of systematic murder of Jewish people during the Holocaust.”

In eight pages, the filing at the ICJ details what South Africa describes as “expressions of genocidal intent” by Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet.

South Africa has also asked the court to issue “provisional measures” ordering Israel to stop its war in Gaza, which it said was “necessary in this case to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people.” A provisional measure is a temporary order to halt actions, or an injunction, pending a final ruling.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a grouping of 57 Muslim countries, as well as Jordan, Turkey and Malaysia have so far backed the case.

What is the International Court of Justice?

The ICJ is based in https://kueceng.com The Hague in the Netherlands and was set up in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations.

The court tries governments while the International Criminal Court, also in The Hague, prosecutes individuals. Israel doesn’t recognize the ICC so the court has no jurisdiction over it. Israel however is a signatory to the Genocide Convention, which gives the ICJ jurisdiction over it.

Member states of the UN and those who have accepted the ICJ’s jurisdiction can present cases. The court accepts cases in which the states involved have each accepted its jurisdiction. The ICJ is composed of 15 judges who serve nine-year terms. Current judges are from the US, Russia, China, Slovakia, Morocco, Lebanon, India, France, Somalia, Jamaica, Japan, Germany, Australia, Uganda and Brazil. Five seats come up for election every three years, with no consecutive term limit.

Four new judges will take their seats in February, one of whom is South Africa’s Dire Tladi.

Ad-hoc judges can be appointed by parties in contentious cases (between two states) – in this instance Israel and South Africa – bringing the number of judges in the case to 17. South Africa has appointed Dikgang Moseneke, the country’s former deputy chief justice, and Israel has named Aharon Barak, ex-president of the country’s Supreme Court.

Experts say a final ruling could take years.

THE HAGUE NETHERLANDS - MARCH 3:  Exterior view of the United Nations International Court of Justice or the Peace Palace on March 3, 2022 in The Hague The Netherlands.

Exterior view of the United Nations International Court of Justice, or the Peace Palace, in The Hague, The Netherlands in March 2022.Michel Porro/Getty Images/File

How has Israel responded?

Israel has called the case a “blood libel” by South Africa, a thinly veiled accusation of antisemitism, and Netanyahu has in turn said that it is Hamas that has committed genocide, adding the Israeli military is acting in “the most moral way” and “does everything to avoid harming civilians.”

“And I ask: where were you, South Africa, and the rest of those who slander us, where were you when millions were murdered and displaced from their homes in Syria, Yemen and other arenas. You weren’t there,” the prime minister said.

Israel will nonetheless appear before the court.

That’s because it is a signatory to the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention, which was drafted in the aftermath of the Holocaust. The treaty gives the ICJ the authority to adjudicate in cases, which can be brought by parties not directly affected by the alleged genocide in question.

“Since the court clearly has jurisdiction, it would be strange if Israel would simply not appear,” said Lieblich. “Also, genocide is a grave allegation, and states usually want to make their case.”

The Israeli public’s view of the case reflects the political disagreements in the country, Lieblich said. “Some view the proceedings as just another case of international bias against Israel. Many others are angry because they think that the case was only made possible because of irresponsible statements by far-right politicians, that in their views don’t represent actual policy.”

But he said that few in the Israeli mainstream are willing to accept the genocide allegations. “They mostly view the war as one of self-defense against Hamas, which due to the latter’s tactics result in wide but unintended harm to civilians.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv on January 7, 2024. (Photo by RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RONEN ZVULUN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a weekly cabinet meeting at the defense ministry in Tel Aviv on January 7.Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Polls show that Israelis overwhelmingly support the war.

Citing an Israeli diplomatic cable, Axios reported that Israel has mobilized its diplomats to lobby host nations to back its position and create international pressure against the case. Its “strategic goal,” it said, is for the court to reject the request for an injunction, refrain from accusing Israel of committing genocide, and acknowledge that it is operating according to international law.

“A ruling by the court could have significant potential implications that are not only in the legal world but have practical bilateral, multilateral, economic, security ramifications,” Axios cited the cable as saying.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said Pretoria is “criminally complicit with Hamas’ campaign of genocide against our people.”

He also accused it of double standards, and backing former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who faces a warrant issued by the ICC.

“How tragic that the rainbow nation that prides itself on fighting racism will be fighting pro bono for anti-Jewish racists,” he said in a January 2 speech posted on X. “We assure South Africa’s leaders: History will judge you. And it will judge you without mercy.”

Lieblich said South Africa appears to be positioning itself in opposition to the US’ dominance in the international order.

“While it pursues the case against Israel, South Africa has criticized the ICC’s arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin, and has also refrained in the past from arresting Omar al-Bashir,” he said. “So, there is a clear international statement here. South Africa has been very vocal about what it views (as) Western ‘double standards’ and this case is a part of that campaign.”

Why is this case significant?

While the ICJ has ruled against Israel in the past, it did so through non-binding “advisory opinions” that are requested by UN bodies such as the General Assembly.

This is the first time Israel is being sued in the ICJ in what is known as a “contentious case,” where states directly raise cases against each other.

In 2004, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion declaring Israel’s separation barrier in the occupied West Bank to be in violation of international law, and called for it to be torn down. Israel ignored that decision.

If the ICJ eventually rules that Israel is directly responsible for genocide, it will be the first time it has found a state has commited genocide, experts said.

“This would be a significant precedent first and foremost because the ICJ never ruled, so far, that a state actually committed genocide,” Lieblich said. “The farthest it went was to rule that Serbia failed to prevent genocide by militias in Srebrenica. In this sense, such a ruling would be legally uncharted territory.”

While no state has been found to be directly responsible for genocide by the court, both Myanmar and Russia have faced provisional measures in genocide cases in recent years.

All ICJ judgements are final, without appeal and binding.

But the ICJ can’t guarantee compliance. In March 2022, for example, the court ordered Russia to immediately halt its military campaign in Ukraine. Kyiv, which brought the case, disputed the grounds for Russia’s invasion, and asked for emergency measures against Russia to halt the violence before the case was heard in full.

TOPSHOT - People inspect the rubble of a building where the displaced Palestinian Jabalieh family were sheltering after it was hit by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 3, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

People inspect the rubble of a building where the displaced Palestinian Jabalieh family were sheltering after it was hit by apparent Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on January 3.AFP/Getty Images

What happens if the court orders Israel to halt the war?

Israel is set to appear in public hearings before the court on Friday to contest South Africa’s genocide accusations.

A ruling on genocide could take years to prove, but the injunction on the Gaza war that Pretoria has asked the ICJ for could come much sooner.

Daniel Machover, a London-based lawyer and international justice expert, told CNN that a provisional measure should be a quick decision that would be taken before there is a final ruling on genocide.

South Africa, he said, only needs to demonstrate that it has standing to bring the case, has acted on its duty to prevent genocide, that there is a “plausible legal argument” that violations of the Genocide Convention are or may be taking place, and that there is a real and imminent risk that irreparable prejudice will be caused to Gaza residents before the court gives its final decision, such that the court needs to order Israel to stop the war.

Francis Boyle, an American human rights lawyer who won two requests at the ICJ under the Genocide Convention against Yugoslavia on behalf of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told Democracy Now that based on his review of the documents submitted by South Africa, he believes Pretoria will indeed win “an order against Israel to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide against the Palestinians.”

Boyle, based on his experience in the Bosnian case, said the order could come within a week of this week’s hearing.

Wounded people, including children, are brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment following the Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on January 4, 2024.

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Lieblich doubts that Israel would cease the fighting altogether should the court issue an injunction on the war. Instead, it could attack the legitimacy of the court and its judges, “considering that some of them are from states that don’t recognize Israel.” It would also matter whether the decision is unanimous, he added.

“The consequences of non-compliance might range from reputational harm and political pressure to sanctions and other measures by third states or further resolutions in the UN,” he said. “The key for Israel would probably be how its key allies would act in such a case.”

He added that while the threshold for an injunction is relatively low, in the main case, proving genocide requires two elements: proof that certain unlawful acts were committed, and that these acts were committed with specific intent to destroy a certain group.

“In past ICJ cases the court required a high threshold to prove such allegations,” he said. “Here the challenge for South Africa would be to prove that statements by some Israeli officials actually reflect the state’s ‘intent’ as a whole, and also that Israel’s actions on the ground were both unlawful and actually tied to an intent to destroy the group as such.”

Could a ruling have implications outside Israel?

The fallout of an ICJ ruling could spread beyond Israel, according to experts. It would not only embarrass Israel’s closest ally, the US, but could also deem Washington complicit in the alleged violation of the Genocide Convention.

“Even though the South African application focuses on Israel, it has huge implications for the United States, especially President Joe Biden and his principal lieutenants,” wrote John Mearsheimer, an American political scientist.

“Why? Because there is little doubt that the Biden administration is complicitous” in Israel’s war, he said.

TOPSHOT - A smoke plume erupts over Khan Yunis from Rafah in the southern Gaza strip during Israeli bombardment on January 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

A smoke plume erupts over Khan Younis from Rafah in the southern Gaza strip during Israeli bombardment on January 8.AFP/Getty Images

Biden has acknowledged that Israel is carrying out “indiscriminate” bombing in Gaza, but he has also vowed to protect the country. The US has bypassed Congress twice to sell military equipment to Israel during the war.

“Leaving aside the legal implications of his behavior, Biden’s name – and America’s name – will be forever associated with what is likely to become one of the textbook cases of attempted genocide,” Mearsheimer wrote.

Even if Israel ignores an order by the ICJ, there will be a legal obligation among other signatories to comply, said Machover. “So, anyone assisting Israel at that point will be in breach of that order.”

“We could have worldwide litigation if states don’t stop assisting Israel… there will be legal ripples across the world” he said.

The case could also have an impact on the Israeli public, Machover said. He believes that a significant number of Israelis “have not looked in the mirror” and lack awareness of the real impact of the war on Palestinians in Gaza.

The ICJ case, he hopes, would prompt the Israeli public to engage in “some sort of self-reflection.”